By Olivia Scheck
MANHATTAN CRIMINAL COURT — A jury found former NFL player Chris Simms not guilty of driving under the influence of marijuana after a very brief deliberation Wednesday morning.
Deliberations began shortly after 11 a.m., and the jury returned their not guilty verdict less than two hours later.
"Of course I’m very happy and relieved," Simms, who appeared to be choked up as the verdict was read, said as he exited the courtroom.
The well-mannered quarterback, who did not testify at trial, also took the opportunity to give his side of the story.
Contrary to the account given by the arresting officer, Francisco Acosta, Simms said that he never admitted to smoking pot on the night of the arrest.
"The comment I made to the officer is that there was someone in the car who had smoked marijuana," Simms said. "They were concerned because they smelled marijuana and a pregnant woman was in the car."
Simms was stopped at a Greenwich Village police checkpoint last July and arrested after Acosta allegedly smelled pot in his car and on his breath. Simms' pregnant wife was in the passenger seat and two friends were in the back, as they returned to New Jersey following a night out in the city.
One of the passengers, Simms' childhood friend Charlie Granatell took the stand Tuesday, telling the jury that it was him and not Simms who was responsible for the smell of marijuana in the car that night.
Grantell testified that he smoked half a joint outside Simms' parked car while the former NFL quarterback, and son of Giants great Phil Simms, was inside Nobu, making an appearance at a birthday party for socialite Noel Ashman.
But prosecutors, relying on the testimony of Officer Acosta, argued that Granatell's story was implausible.
"[The officer] smelled marijuana on [Simms] breath … your breath doesn't smell like marijuana because someone in your car smoked a joint two hours earlier," said Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Glazer. "That makes no sense."
The smell was "so bad that [Acosta] got a headache and his tongue got numb," Glazer recalled from the officer's testimony.
Acosta, who was the only witness to testify for the prosecution, also claimed that Simms admitted to having had "four puffs" of marijuana.
On his way out of court, Simms said the officer's "four puffs" story was a fabrication.
"There were a lot of things portrayed falsely," Simms said. "I love the NYPD, but I’m mad that this happened."
Acosta was decribed by prosecutors as a 15-year veteran of the specialized DWI unit, who had arrested roughly 400 people for driving under the influence.
During his summation, Simms' lawyer Harvey Steinberg said his client's arrest was "a case of rush to judgment," noting that Acosta never bothered to question or even collect the names of the passengers in the car.
"There really was no investigation," Steinberg said, adding that his client's reputation had been irreparably tarnished by the arrest.
After his acquittal, Simms said the ordeal had been especially hard on his wife Danielle Simms.
"She’s been portrayed as the bad mother who lets her husband smoke marijuana and hot box the car," Simms said. "So that was rough on her."
Despite it all, Simms said neither he nor Danielle harbor any ill-will toward the Big Apple.
"I love New York City," Simms declared on his way into the courthouse elevator. "We hope to move back here one day."