When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers allowed left end Michael Bennett to leave for Seattle during free agency last month, they put a lot of faith in not only his projected replacement, Da’Quan Bowers, but also in Dennis Coppin.
Coppin is the New York attorney who will represent Bowers today as he faces felony gun charges stemming from his arrest at La Guardia Airport on Feb. 19. Bowers, according to authorities, arrived at an airline check-in counter with a .40 caliber firearm in his luggage.
Bowers, 22, was released from a New York jail after posting a $10,000 bond the day after he was arrested. He faces two counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree.
The charges are considered Class C felonies in New York and carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 3½ years in prison and a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, according to Queens (N.Y.) District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Meris Campbell.
Coppin initially predicted with great confidence that Bowers would avoid serving any career-derailing jail time, telling The Tribune in an email on Feb. 20 that Bowers would be “fully exonerated’’ of the charges.
Coppin was a little more guarded this week, though, saying on Tuesday evening he would “rather not say anything until after we’ve gone to court on Thursday.’’
Still, Coppin believes the facts of the matter favor Bowers, who alerted airline authorities of the weapon’s presence in his bag. That, Coppin said, erases any suggestion of criminal intent.
“He did alert the authorities to his weapon because he was getting ready to go on the flight, but it’s illegal to carry a handgun in New York City,’’ Campbell said.
Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said Coppin expressed great confidence in his ability to free Bowers of the charges when the two spoke shortly after the incident.
According to Dominik, Bowers said his girlfriend surprised him with the trip to New York and he did not realize the gun was in the bag he hurriedly packed as the couple prepared to depart North Carolina.
Bowers said he realized only after arriving in New York that he was in possession of the firearm, which is legally registered in his name but not in the state of New York.
Despite the legal issue, Tampa Bay believes Bowers, a second-round draft pick out of Clemson in 2011, is ready to make an impact as a starting end after two injury-plagued seasons.
“Da’Quan is a guy who I thought continued to accelerate his play throughout the end of (last) season,’’ Dominik said of Bowers, who had three sacks in 10 games after returning from a torn Achilles’ tendon.
“The more we can get him on the football field, the better we are as a football team. We feel he can be a premier left end in this league.’’