Von Miller's urine-soaked six-game suspension, more about death-penalty witness list

Update: In our post yesterday about the troubles afflicting Bronco Von Miller (see our previous coverage below), we noted reports that he would receive a six game suspension for violating the NFL's drug policy, as well as his surprise presence on the witness list for a death-penalty case stemming from a quintuple murder at Fero's Bar & Grille in October. Turns out the suspension speculation was spot-on: Miller was indeed put on the shelf for six games. Meanwhile, we've learned more from the Denver DA's office about the odds of him being called to testify.

First, the suspension. As we've reported, Miller was said to have violated the NFL drug policy in 2011 in regard to alleged use of marijuana and amphetamines, with the latter possibly being the club drug Molly. That triggered a testing schedule Miller was said to have violated. In the beginning, observers guessed that he'd missed a test -- but now, USA Today and other outlets are saying that after a Broncos workout, he spilled one urine sample and submitted another one that was diluted.

The latter could be innocent -- the result of over-hydration -- or an attempt to mask a positive reading.

Miller appealed the suspension, but before his argument could be heard, he was arrested on a bench warrant after missing a court date in December for several misdemeanor traffic violations. This gaffe wasn't supposed to impact the length of his suspension, and maybe it didn't. Somehow, though, what had originally been thought to be a four-game suspension was transformed into six.

Not that Miller's complaining. Here's his contrite statement after the ruling was handed down:

"The Substances of Abuse policy requires everyone to comply with the rules. Although my suspension doesn't result from a positive test, there is no excuse for my violations of the rules. I made mistakes and my suspension has hurt my team, Broncos fans, and myself. I am especially sorry for the effect of my bad decisions on others. I will not make the same mistakes about adhering to the policy in the future. During my time off the field, I will work tirelessly and focus exclusively on remaining in peak shape. I look forward to contributing immediately upon my return to the field and bringing a championship back to the people of Denver."
The suspension will reportedly cost Miller $806,162 in salary, and some pundits think it could also result in the Broncos failing to reach the Super Bowl this season. This last verdict strikes us as premature -- but Miller's prolonged absence, coupled with the distraction it'll cause, certainly makes this goal more difficult to achieve.

Regarding the Fero's case, Miller is not suspected of any wrongdoing. Rather, a document describes him as "a possible acquaintance of (a friend of Lewis)" who "may testify about prior events and the Defendant's attire."

What's that mean? Denver DA's office spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough says she's prohibited from explaining specifics about the case beyond noting that Miller is on the witness roster for the penalty phase of the matter targeting Dexter Lewis, thought to be the ringleader in the murder and arson at Fero's, as opposed to the trial portion. However, she is able to speak about witness lists in general.

"In the course of an investigation, detectives will talk to a lot of people," Kimbrough says, "and as the folks they talk with bring up other people, the detectives follow up and talk to those people. That's not unusual in any criminal case, and the detectives have to document all of that. So someone's name on a witness list may or may not mean there's a direct relation to a case, or that they'll ever be called as a witness in a proceeding. It simply means the detectives spoke with that person and documented it."

Reading between the lines, Miller may never take the stand against Lewis. But the fact that his name came up in the wake of an arrest couldn't have helped his cause with the NFL. And now, he's paying a heavy price -- as are Broncos fans.

Continue for our previous coverage about Von Miller's presence on the Fero's Bar & Grille death-penalty-case witness list, including photos, videos and documents about the crime.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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