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Illini freshman pleads not guilty to two felonies

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Jailed since July 3, Illinois freshman defensive tackle Chris Jones pleaded not guilty to a pair of felony charges Thursday, multiple media outlets have reported.

Earlier this month, Jones was arrested after allegedly confronting the two male victims outside of a Champaign bar and allegedly punching them in the face.  The victims told police they were attacked by Jones because of their “sexual orientation”.  Jones claimed that the incident was in retaliation for a fight that had taken place a week earlier.

Prosecutors decided not to charge Jones with a hate crime; rather, he was charged with two counts of aggravated battery as those carry a longer prison sentence if convicted.

Negotiations on a plea deal between Jones’ public defender and the state’s attorney’s office continue ahead of Jones’ next court appearance, which is currently scheduled for Aug. 30.  If convicted, Jones could face up to 2-5 years in prison.

“If we need to try it, I would be more than happy to try it,” assistant state’s attorney Adam Dill said. “There’s good evidence in the case. If it’s something that could be worked out to a reasonable resolution, we would proceed that way.

“Any time someone is punched on the street without provocation, we don’t want that to happen in Champaign County.”

Jones remains jailed on a $100,000 bond.  A request to have the bond reduced has yet to be considered by the court.

Jones, a three-star member of the Illini’s 2011 recruiting class, has been indefinitely suspended by the football program since shortly after the arrest.

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