CRYSTAL RIVER - The State Attorney's Office dismissed three drug charges against a former NFL player, substitute teacher and football coach at Weeki Wachee High School who was arrested in early April in Citrus County, court records show.
Ricky Feacher, 59, of Crystal River, had charges dismissed of third-degree felony possession of three bags of cocaine totaling 1.3 grams, first-degree misdemeanor possession of two bags of marijuana totaling 3.7 grams, and first-degree misdemeanor possession of a straw containing cocaine residue.
Feacher also was charged with first-degree felony fleeing or eluding law enforcement, which is the only charge filed by the state Attorney's Office, and still stands in the case.
Assistant State Attorney Jeffrey Foster dismissed the drug charges in Citrus County court April 25, he said.
"We have to have a good faith basis that we can prove every charge that we file beyond a reasonable doubt," Foster said. "The drugs in the case were found in a cigarette pack lying on the ground outside the defendant's vehicle. No one observed them in his possession, or observed him throw anything from the vehicle, and without more, mere proximity is not enough to prove possession."
Foster said law enforcement attempted to gather additional evidence against Feacher to uphold the drug charges, "but there wasn't enough."
"Our office, when filing a charge, we have to meet a higher burden than law enforcement when making an arrest. They have to have probable cause," Foster said. "It's a much higher threshold, and there was just no additional evidence."
Foster declined to comment on what the additional evidence gathering consisted of, or what techniques law enforcement used, noting that the case was still active and pending.
Citrus County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Heather Yates, said the sheriff's office investigation concerning drug charges against Feacher has been closed.
Feacher is a 1972 graduate of Hernando High School who was inducted into the school's Sports Hall of Fame in 2011. He played nine seasons in the NFL from 1976-84, primarily for the Cleveland Browns. Feacher also worked in management for the Browns, rising to director of player development following his retirement, until the franchise moved to Baltimore in 1996.
Feacher was hired as a substitute teacher with Hernando County School District on Feb. 16, 2012, and as of October 2012, still held the position. Last year, Feacher was an assistant football coach at Weeki Wachee High School, and was recently hired as a paraprofessional at Eastside Elementary School. However, one day prior to beginning work at the new position, Feacher was arrested and his employment terminated.
Heather Martin, executive director of business services for Hernando County Schools, said Feacher's employment was terminated because of the nature of the charges, but that as long as an employee is not convicted of specific criminal offenses outlined in the school board policy manual, then employment remains a possibility.
"It depends on the nature of the charges," Martin said. "If someone's charges are dropped then they're not convicted of those. The policy speaks to convictions, not arrests."
Feacher was arrested 10:20 p.m. April 9 by Deputy Jonathan Richey, who wrote in the arrest report that he was parked at the intersection of NE 11th Street and NE 8th Avenue, and enforcing traffic there because he understood the area to be high in drug trafficking.
Richey said he saw Feacher driving a black SUV, which came to a complete stop in front of an apartment complex, and that Feacher stayed in the car for about two minutes before driving away. When Feacher turned left on NE 11th St., Richey said he could see Feacher in the headlights of his car talking on a cellphone and not wearing a seat belt, and then activated his lights and siren.
According to Richey's report, Feacher turned onto five streets, using his left turn signal for right turns and his right turn signal for left turns "in an apparent attempt to elude this deputy."
The report also says Feacher drove in the left lane while making right turns, and drove in the right lane while making left turns, not stopping for any stop signs. Feacher stopped less than a mile later at New Serenity Funeral Home at 713 NE Fifth Terrace, where Richey got out of his car and ordered Feacher to step out, at which time Feacher was detained.
"I think the state attorney did the right thing," said John Blackstone, Feacher's attorney based in Crystal River.
"Mr. Feacher was in a dark neighborhood being pursued by an unmarked police car, and his story, and the police's story, is significantly different."
"Mr Feacher stopped at a well-lit location," Blackstone said.
Richey, the arresting deputy, does not mention being in an unmarked patrol car in the arrest report. Records show Richey was issued a written reprimand Nov. 24, 2010 for allowing Communications Officer Rachel Fults to ride along in his patrol car during his shift after they had been told once by a lieutenant and twice by a sergeant not to.
"They were not allowed to ride along together due to a past incident that occurred during a ride along and due to their personal relationship," the report shows.