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Former NFL wide receiver found not guilty of murder: 'I protected my family, and I got charged as a criminal'

Screenshot of WPTV News YouTube video

Earlier this week, a former NFL wide receiver was acquitted of all charges stemming from a fatal shooting in Florida two years ago.

The jury took under four hours on Wednesday to acquit Travis Rudolph, the 27-year-old former standout wide receiver at Florida State University who spent one year in the NFL, of one count of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted first-degree murder.

There was never any doubt that Rudolph was the man who fired dozens of rounds at an SUV at his home in Lake Park, Florida, just after midnight on April 7, 2021. The four men inside the vehicle had supposedly driven to the residence to confront Rudolph about an argument he had had with his then-girlfriend, Dominique Jones. The men reportedly believed that Rudolph had in some way mistreated Jones.

During the trial, Rudolph took the stand in his own defense, and CBS12 reported that he "remained consistent with his testimony" that, while he exchanged words with the men in the car, two of the four individuals inside had pointed a firearm at him. The outlet also reported that the men had "attacked" Rudolph and his brother, who was also at the residence at the time. At some point, Rudolph fired 39 shots in the direction of the car, fatally striking Sebastien Jean-Jacques and injuring another.

Rudolph had always alleged he fired in self-defense. "I did what I had to do to just protect me and my brother's life," he told reporters after the verdict was read. Last year, his attorney even attempted to have the charges against Rudolph dismissed under Florida's "stand your ground" law, but a judge denied the motion.

"When it first happened, it was a matter of seconds, man, and my life could've been gone," said Rudolph, who could have faced four life sentences, had he been convicted. "Just the fact that I protected my family, and I got charged as a criminal, I just felt like it was unfair. But the jurors made the right decision."

Marc Freeman from the State Attorney's Office claimed that while prosecutors "disagree with the jury’s verdict," they do "respect" it. "Our thoughts are with the victims and their families in this case," he added.

During his two years at FSU, Rudolph racked up some impressive stats before leaving early. He went undrafted but played one season with the New York Giants. He was then waived by the Giants, picked up by the Miami Dolphins, and even spent some time in the Canadian Football League before suffering a knee injury that seemed to end his career. However, now that he is a free man, he expressed an interest in returning to the game.

"The only thing I say is thank you, God," Linda Rudolph, Travis' mother, said following the verdict on Wednesday. "Thank you for just making this day happy!"

"We definitely pray a lot," her son confirmed.

Former Florida State University star Travis Rudolph found not guilty on all countswww.youtube.com

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