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 Tuesday, June 13
Kicker faced possible deportation if convicted
 Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A jury needed only 50 minutes Tuesday to acquit former Florida State kicker Sebastian Janikowski of a charge he tried to bribe a policeman to release his roommate.

Janikowski, the first-round draft choice of the Oakland Raiders, was accused of offering the officer $300 to release his friend, who had been arrested on a trespassing charge after not being allowed into a nightclub.

Sebastian Janikowski
Sebastian Janikowski prepares to hear the verdict Tuesday.

The defense argued that the 22-year-old native of Poland was simply trying to help out a friend and never had any intention of breaking the law. They contended Janikowski might easily have misunderstood what was happening because he has been in the country only six years and is still learning English.

But the prosecution's lead witness, former Tallahassee police Officer Chris Knight, said he was convinced Janikowski tried to bribe him on Jan. 23 with three $100 bills.

"He started counting it out to me, smiling," testified Knight, who recently left the Tallahassee Police Department and now works for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Janikowski, a key member of the national champion Seminoles, faced up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine and deportation if convicted.

Assistant state attorney Lee Jantzen called two witnesses, including Knight, who was working off duty as a bouncer at the club.

"You don't just throw money at a police officer without some kind of an arrangement," Jantzen said in his closing argument.

But the defense said Janikowski thought he could keep his roommate, Aaron Silverman, 26, from going to jail by paying a fine on the spot.

"On that evidence, I just couldn't see how that jury could return a verdict of guilty with the doubt that permeated this whole thing," defense attorney Deeno Kitchen said. "You'd have to believe he's a liar and a perjurer."

At one point, the 255-pound Janikowski broke down on the stand when he explained why he shaves his head. He does so in memory of a boyhood soccer teammate in Poland who died in an accident several years ago.

But he was all smiles after the verdict, hugging his father, lawyers and agent Paul Healy of Jacksonville.

When asked about the verdict, Janikowski said, "It couldn't be better."

Healy nearly wound up in more trouble for a celebratory outburst following the announcement of the verdict. He let out a whoop and began to use his cell phone in the courtroom, angering Circuit Judge George Reynolds III.

Reynolds, however, decided against a fine after Healy apologized.

Janikowski and his father, Henryk, immediately left the courthouse and headed for attorney Steve Dobson's office.

Janikowski leaves early Wednesday for Oakland, Calif., where he will begin four days of workouts with the Raiders before returning Sunday.

"He can move on now with his career," Healy said. "It's a very unfortunate part of his life, but he's now put it behind him. I think he's learned a very valuable lesson throughout this whole matter."