The domestic violence case against 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster will not go to trial, Santa Clara County Judge Nona Klippen announced Wednesday afternoon, and Foster will rejoin his teammates for practice on Thursday.
Klippen dismissed two charges against Foster: domestic violence with an allegation that he inflicted great bodily injury and forcefully attempting to prevent a victim from reporting a crime. The charge of possession of an assault weapon was reduced to a misdemeanor.
Foster, 24, has not been allowed to take part in team activities while his case was ongoing. That is no longer the case, general manager John Lynch said in a statement issued quickly after the ruling.
Lynch also added an air of caution for the former first-round pick who has been the subject of several unsavory story lines in the last year and a half: "It has been made clear to Reuben that his place on this team is one that must continue to be earned," he said. "We will continue to monitor the remaining misdemeanor charge.”
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As has been the case following previous hearings, Foster did not speak with reporters before ducking into a car and driving off. However, he did smile and give a thumbs-up signal as he walked from the courthouse on Wednesday.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office issued its own statement saying it was disappointed in the ruling "because the evidence demonstrated that Mr. Foster seriously hurt his girlfriend." The statement noted that recantations are common in domestic violence cases. "Some are scared, some feel guilty, some are coerced, some need money. Whatever the cause, we move forward on cases when victims falsely recant because we know that if we don't more victims will be hurt. Our commitment to domestic violence survivors is unwavering."
Klippen, however, said the evidence she heard at last week's preliminary hearing didn't merit moving it forward.
She said that while Foster's ex-girlfriend, Elissa Ennis, sounded distraught in her first call to 911, nine minutes later she was far more composed. That fits Ennis' testimony that she stood at the end of Foster's driveway on the morning of Feb. 11 and calculated how she would proceed. Klippen also noted that the motorist who allowed her to use his cellphone described her as "really calm" and was not overly concerned about a red mark he observed on her face.
Klippen seemed especially skeptical about Ennis' initial report that Foster hit her 10 times with a closed fist. She noted that Ennis is a "slight young woman weighing probably 110 pounds." She had injuries when police arrived, but "nothing to suggest she had been punched in the face 10 times by the defendant, who is a professional football player," Klippen said.
Last week, Ennis, 28, testified for two hours, saying multiple times that Foster didn't hit her on that morning and that she concocted the first story she told police because she was furious that he was going to end their relationship.
"I wanted him to go down," she said. "I was pissed."
Ennis said it was all a scheme geared toward suing Foster, whom she started dating when he was at Alabama. She also admitted to falsely accusing another ex-boyfriend of domestic violence as well as stealing Foster's money, his designer clothing and jewelry — including more than $8,000 in cash and two Rolex watches — when she left his Los Gatos home and went back to her mother's home in Louisiana. She has since returned the money but still has the jewelry, she said.
The injuries that had police concerned when they arrived at Foster's home on Feb. 11, she said, were instead suffered during a road-rage-inspired fight with another woman in San Francisco one day earlier.
Neither the district attorney's office nor police seemed to believe that story, and Klippen noted Ennis' ever-changing story left doubts about how the injuries occurred. While there's a 22-second video clip of Ennis brawling with a woman, the original video, which appeared on Instagram, has been taken down. Therefore it's impossible to tell when and where it was taken.
Klippen, however, said Ennis' testimony that she was enraged over the end of their relationship was believable. She noted that she was living in a big house in Los Gatos, drove a Corvette she didn't pay for and took trips to the Super Bowl.
"There is a ring of truth to her testimony that she was really unhappy this lifestyle was coming to an end," Klippen said.
While the rest of the 49ers began OTA practices this week, Foster has stayed away from the team facility while the case is ongoing. It's clear, however, that he will be welcomed back this week. Teammates Adrian Colbert and Jaquiski Tartt arrived to court with Foster on Wednesday in a show of support. Tartt and cornerback Richard Sherman had been on hand for one of Foster's earlier court dates.
Foster also is facing a misdemeanor marijuana charge in Alabama and is likely to face some sort of suspension from the NFL this season because of his multiple run-ins with the law. His next court date in Alabama is June 20.