Lead prosecutor in Sean Taylor's trial steps aside

MIAMI -- The lead prosecutor in the assault case against Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor stepped aside Wednesday after defense lawyers charged that he was using his prominence in the case to promote his moonlighting work as a nightclub disc jockey.

Michael Grieco, the assistant state attorney handling the Taylor case, asked to be replaced because "he sees himself becoming the courtroom focus, rather than the individual charged with the criminal offense," said a statement from the office of his boss, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.

The move came a few hours after Taylor's attorney Richard Sharpstein said he would seek dismissal of the charges because of "inappropriate and unethical" prosecutorial conduct by Grieco, who had posted news articles about the Taylor case on a Web site that promotes his side business as a DJ in Miami Beach clubs.

"It's obvious he's exploiting his job as a prosecutor for private gain," Sharpstein said. "It has clouded his view of justice."

After being told of Grieco's departure from the case, Sharpstein said: "Now we look forward to a fair and impartial prosecutor looking at this matter and doing the right thing, which is to dismiss this case."

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Mary Barzee agreed earlier Wednesday to delay the trial for a sixth time, this time from Monday until May 8. Taylor faces a minimum of three years in prison on each of three aggravated assault charges stemming from a June 1 armed confrontation in a Miami neighborhood.

This latest development could mean even more delays.

Grieco referred all calls seeking comment to Rundle. Rundle's statement said that nothing on the Web site "compromised the integrity of the Sean Taylor case" but that Grieco "unfortunately" did not delete messages and images sent to him by others.

"The desire to smear a prosecutor and affect a potential jury pool is a reprehensible trial tactic," the statement added.

Grieco's page on MySpace.com was still available until Wednesday afternoon, when it was a replaced with a message saying that "this user has either canceled their membership, or their account has been deleted."

Before it was deleted, the page contained a short biography noting that Grieco works as a prosecutor in Miami and including a photo of a news conference featuring himself, Rundle and other officials.

It also contained dozens of photos of young men and women -- many of them scantily clad -- accompanied by messages about the Miami bar scene and their comments about his abilities as a disc jockey. Sharpstein called some of the content "moderately pornographic" and not appropriate for a prosecutor.

Taylor is charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a firearm and one misdemeanor battery charge stemming from a dispute with a group of people over all-terrain vehicles that Taylor owns. Taylor, a former University of Miami star, is free on $16,500 bail.

Taylor has refused a plea deal in which he would receive a sentence of probation in return for a guilty plea to a felony, Sharpstein said.