San Francisco 49ers All-Pro linebacker Aldon Smith is now defending himself against a civil suit following a shoot-out during a party at his home last summer.
Smith's attorney, Matthew Conant, on Tuesday filed an answer to a Sept. 3 lawsuit accusing the football star and a former teammate of firing illegal weapons, brandishing handguns, hosting a party where two people were shot and allowing gang members to attend the event.
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Smith's defense claims in the legal filing, plaintiff Ronndale Esporlas -- one of the shooting victims -- knew the dangers and risks he was taking when he attended the party at the star player's 8,000-square-foot home on June 29, 2012.
Conant also wrote injuries and damages were caused by persons other than Smith.
Esporlas alleges that he suffered “serious, catastrophic and permanent injuries” when he was caught in a “crossfire” of bullets in the early morning hours of June 30, 2012. Delanie Walker, a former Niner who now plays for the Tennessee Titans, was also named in the suit as a co-defendant.
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According to the lawsuit, there was dancing and a lot of drinking, where Smith and Walker got drunk. In an effort to end the party, Smith and Walker hopped onto the balcony and fired off “illegally possessed” weapons into the air, the suit claims.
The lawsuit also says, “Walker then made his way to the driveway. Once on the driveway Delanie Walker began firing a handgun in the air and towards others attending the party.” The legal filing said a group of people near the street began firing gunshots back toward the house, and that Esporlas was hit by a bullet in the crossfire.
Legal Analyst Christian Picone said Smith and his attorney have their work cut out for them.
"My take is there is potential liability for Mr. Smith," Picone said.
With the civil suit now filed and answered, Picone said the legal wheels now start turning. The process will likely take several months and could last more than a year.
"This case is going forward," Picone predicted. "It's not going to get thrown out anytime soon."
Smith and Walker are named in another lawsuit filed by an attorney for Aaron Reyes, who is friends with Esporlas. Reyes was also hit and injured by gunfire. Smith's legal team has yet to respond to the second lawsuit. Walker has not responded to either lawsuit.
Reyes said, like Esporlas, he received serious, catastrophic and permanent injuries.
The pair of lawsuits paint a similar picture of the events during Smith's party.
Some of those details include the fact that Smith – who is reportedly the 10th highest paid 49ers player, with a base salary of more than $1.6 million a year – charged a $10 cover to get into the party, and provided a fully stocked bar and charged guests $5 a drink. Smith and Walker also allegedly served an alcoholic concoction named "jungle juice" at the party.
Both civil lawsuits do not name Smith or Walker as the gunmen responsible for shooting the victims.
Smith's attorney declined further comment, citing the pending litigation. Calls attempting to reach Walker have not been returned.
The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department continues to investigate the party at Smith's house, which occurred 14 months ago. No arrests have been announced and the district attorney has not filed any criminal charges.
Prior to the lawsuits being filed, not much was known about the party at the home in unincorporated San Jose on Higuera Highland Lane, mostly because the guests and the football players haven’t said much.
Sheriff’s deputies that night received a 911 call after “multiple” gunshots were fired at Smith’s home. A sheriff’s spokesman at the time described the scene as "pretty chaotic” with more than 100 guests in attendance.
A “couple” of gunshot victims – who were never publicly named – were taken to the hospital as well as one stabbing victim. That victim turned out to be Smith himself.
Smith became the 49ers full-time starting outside linebacker in 2012. He finished the season with 19.5 sacks and was voted the team’s Most Valuable Player.