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Animal cruelty charges dropped against Falcons player

LAWRENCEVILLE - Animal cruelty charges filed against Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux were dismissed by District Attorney Danny Porter on Wednesday.

Porter said after an exhaustive investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Babineaux's girlfriend's dog, Kilo, it was determined there was not enough evidence to continue prosecution.

The 25-year-old player was arrested and charged in February following an investigation stemming from reports Babineaux caused injuries that killed the year-and-a-half-old pit bull mix.

"We're very excited we were able to prove Jonathan's innocence," said Pat McDonough, one of Babineaux's attorneys.

The Lawrenceville-based attorney attributes the outcome to seven to eight months of hard work, bringing in experts such as veterinarians and medical experts she said proved the player innocent.

"He is thrilled to put this behind him," McDonough said of his client. "It was a difficult time."

McDonough also credits Porter for what the attorney described as an honorable job.

"We were fortunate early on to sit down with Danny Porter, and instead of indicting (Babineaux) right away, we asked that (Porter) would hear all the evidence and he agreed to do that to his credit," McDonough said.

Porter wrote in a statement that all evidence surrounding the alleged incident was studied and reviewed by the state's forensic veterinarian, Dr. Melinda Merck.

"Under Georgia law, when the state relies wholly on circumstantial evidence in a criminal case, the evidence must exclude every reasonable possibility other than the guilt of the accused," Porter wrote.

Porter mentioned the experts' uncertainty about the exact cause of death and how the injury came about were just part of what led to the dismissal.

McDonough said the 25-year-old player's career remains intact and Babineaux has continued to start and play in this season's games. The attorney said his client was fortunate.

"If he had been indicted he could have been suspended or kicked off the team," McDonough said.

Though receiving tremendous pressure from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and others, McDonough said Falcons owner Arthur Blank stood by Babineaux.

"In some ways this is like the Duke case where the public was ready to convict those boys of rape before they were ever in court," McDonough said. "In that case the DA was corrupt. This was totally the opposite. We had an honorable DA who listened to the facts. He did the right thing."