July 16, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Prosecutors dismissed criminal charges Thursday against a University of Utah football player recently kicked off the team, but they are leaving open the possibility of refiling altered charges.

New evidence suggests Dominique Hatfield was not the person who robbed a man at knifepoint who planned to buy an Xbox game console, said Salt Lake District Attorney chief deputy Blake Nakamura. But Nakamura said they still suspect Hatfield may have been aware of or involved in the scheme. Surveillance footage shows him in the area of the robbery, he said.

Nakamura said they also still believe Hatfield tried to sell stolen cellphones to the same victim in a second interaction at the same car wash on June 30. The 20-year-old Hatfield was arrested that day and charged with aggravated robbery and theft.

Hatfield's attorney Greg Skordas said it was clear from surveillance footage that Hatfield wasn't involved in the robbery. He commended prosecutors for taking a step back to reassess the case. Asked about the prosecution's belief that Hatfield is still guilty of theft, Skordas said if they had the evidence, they could have kept that charge.

Charging documents filed previously indicated that Hatfield denied involvement in the robbery but acknowledged to police he grabbed cellphones left around at parties by people who had been drinking and tried to sell them by posting ads online.

The junior was dismissed from the team last week, with Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham saying in a statement early Friday that there were further concerns about Hatfield's off-field behavior. Utah spokeswoman Liz Abel said Whittingham was out of town and unavailable for comment.

Hatfield, a junior from Los Angeles, started 10 games in 2014 after switching from receiver to cornerback. He finished with 38 tackles, one interception and nine pass breakups.

Skordas said Hatfield has returned to California after losing his spot on the team and his scholarship. Skordas said he doesn't know what Hatfield or the school want to do moving forward.

Hatfield was originally identified as the suspect in the robbery by the victim, but it turns out he and the actual suspect just had similar body types and physiques, Nakamura said. He said the video footage from a nearby business does not show the actual robbery.

But Skordas said the actual suspect was several inches taller, making it clear they were different people.

Prosecutors also felt good about filing charges against Hatfield because they thought he answered the same phone to respond to both inquiries by the victim, Nakamura said. But, they now believe a phone spoofing app may have been used, which makes it unclear whose phone number was being used, he said.

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