Dallas Cowboys kicker Rafael Septien was a local hero, but since a controversial incident last year, the respect he earned is lost-possibly forever. Septien was released by the Dallas Cowboys last April, eight days after he pled guilty to indecency with a ten-year-old girl and was given a ten-year probated sentence. He says he will play pro football again, but his career is most likely over. At thirty-three, in what he calls his athletic prime, Rafael Septien is yesterday’s sports headline.
Now, Septien is out to clear his name. He says the true story was never told. "I am totally innocent," he said in August. "I declared myself guilty, but I wasn’t proven guilty. There was no proof of anything."
After seven months of silence. Septien is claiming he was falsely accused by the anxious family of a troubled girl and their overambitious lawyer. He claims he was pushed into confessing by an impatient Dallas Cowboys front office that needed to quell the uproar from outraged fans, and by his fear that an emotional jury would railroad him straight to prison.
Septien claims that Lee Gabriel, the Denton County assistant district attorney who handled the case, obtained a gag order to silence any rumors that the family was planning to drop the charges. "The mother said she didn’t want to do anything; that she wanted to retire the charges. They interviewed her and that’s when they put the gag order [into effect]," a tearful Septien said. "[The family] was trying to say the truth and all of a sudden they just dropped it."
Septien said that the assistant district attorney insisted the family stick with its story. "She wanted to gain recognition " he said. "They were totally afraid of the DA. The girl called me crying, ’Rafael, Rafael, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.’"
In a statement to the court, Septien’s lawyers, Jay Ethington and Gerald Banks, said two separate, official polygraph tests indicated Septien was innocent of the charges. "I passed two lie detectors from the best in the business," Septien said. "I mean, that’s something, okay?"
However, Gabriel said that if the case had gone to trial, the tests would have been inadmissible as evidence and therefore carry no weight.
Septien maintained his innocence during an interview at a March 30 mini-camp workout, and said he was optimistic about the trial. "Everything is going to be resolved." he was reported as saying. Then, just a week after the interview, Septien consented to a plea bargain arrangement. He signed a judicial confession that declared him guilty of a reduced charge of indecency with a minor, a second-degree felony. He was sentenced to ten years probation and ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment.
Septien maintains his innocence and believes his only crime is that he is overaffectionate. He said he is by no means a molester of children. "I am a very friendly guy. My problem is that I love kids," he said. "I never had a problem with kids before this."
Ben Agajanian, a Cowboys kicking coach and a personal friend of Septien’s, said that Septien was the center of attention among children on and off the field. "Little kids always came around and there were never any problems," Agajanian said. "But. you really don’t know the inner part of a person."
Septien said he was wary that a jury might misunderstand his affection for children. "If you accidentally touch their breast or thigh, they’ll put you away," he said. "That was my biggest scare. If I go to jail, I’d get raped, I’d get AIDS, and I’d die. Because of that and the Cowboys, I couldn’t suffer the risk [of going to trial]."
Septien said he spent $30,000, not including a $2,000 fine, on his defense. A descendant of Mexican aristocracy, he says he has wealthy friends across the border who can help finance further litigation. Septien is determined to clear his name.
Agajanian said Septien was bitter when the Cowboys put him on waivers shortly after he pled guilty. "He started to blame other people, but I told him he can’t blame anyone but himself," Agajanian said. "If he’s definitely not guilty and pleads guilty to a lesser offense, I think he’s wrong." Cowboys punter Mike Saxon, a close friend of Septien’s, stands by the former kicker. "I still don’t believe it, even though he pleaded guilty,"
The child’s mother has a different view of the tarnished football star. "We wanted it to be clear to the public that he was guilty, that we were not trying to make trouble for him," she says. "Deep inside him, I know that he was a good man, but the just did something wrong."