NEW YORK -- Tennessee Titans backup quarterback Chris Simms wasn't high, but a friend's marijuana smoking got the player arrested on drugged-driving charges, the friend told a jury Tuesday.
Charles Granatell -- a former Bryant University quarterback -- said he was entirely responsible for the pot odor that later prompted an officer to arrest Simms. Granatell said he'd never seen Simms use the drug during the roughly 12 years they've known each other.
Indeed, Granatell said Simms was none too pleased at the scent in his SUV when he came back from a 10-minute stop at a party. "Did you guys smoke in here?" he asked, according to Granatell.
Simms, 30, the son of former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms, has pleaded not guilty in the misdemeanor case. Closing arguments are set for Wednesday.
A police officer told jurors Simms made a tire-squealing turn just before a police sobriety checkpoint in lower Manhattan around 1 a.m. July 1. With a reek of marijuana coming from his Mercedes-Benz SUV, a "zombie"-like Simms slurred his words, walked unsteadily and said there wasn't any marijuana left in the car because "he smoked it all in the car," the officer testified Monday.
An alcohol breath test came back negative, and Simms declined a urine test that could have shown drug use, if any.
Simms' lawyer said the officer misunderstood the quarterback saying "the guy in the back seat smoked marijuana."
Granatell was in the back seat with another friend of Simms after going out to dinner with Simms and his wife, Danielle. Granatell said he'd smoked pot around 10 a.m. that morning and again while Simms was out of the car to stop by friend Noel Ashman's 40th birthday bash between dinner and dessert at a trendy cafe.
Simms didn't smoke anything at the party, and "he was very, very lucid. We had a long conversation, actually," Ashman, a party promoter who has owned several New York nightspots, told jurors Tuesday. His production credits include the 2001 film "Never Again," starring Jeffrey Tambor and Jill Clayburgh.
After Simms returned from wishing Ashman a happy birthday, his group made a roughly 20-minute stop for dessert, got back on the road and was pulled over, Granatell said.
Through questioning, Manhattan assistant district attorney Alexandra Glazer pointed out that Granatell hadn't told police at the time that he had been the one smoking pot.
"I didn't get the chance to. ... (Simms' arrest) happened so fast," Granatell said. "Go back and change it -- I would if I could."
Granatell, now a marketing manager for a cosmetics-ingredient company, declined to comment after his testimony.
Simms' wife didn't testify. The judge decided jurors will be told that they can, but don't have to, infer that her testimony wouldn't have helped her husband's defense.
Defense lawyer attorney Harvey A. Steinberg said Danielle Simms didn't testify because she didn't want the publicity or "to have to be cross-examined about things that are sacred to the marriage."
New York law affords husbands and wives the so-called spousal privilege of declining to testify about confidential communications between them. But the judge said the presence of the Simmses' friends made their communications surrounding his arrest non-confidential.
Chris Simms could face up to a year in jail if convicted in the misdemeanor case. In January, he turned down an offer to avoid any jail time by pleading guilty to driving while impaired, a non-criminal violation. His punishment would have included a $500 fine and five days of community service.
Besides the legal consequences, a conviction or any guilty plea that entailed admitting smoking marijuana could subject Simms to a suspension under NFL policies.
Simms started his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003. He has a 7-9 record in 16 NFL career starts.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press