Over the holiday weekend, it was reported that Illinois defensive tackle Chris Jones was arrested and charged with aggravated battery following an incident involving the alleged face-punching of two individuals on a street outside of a Champaign bar.
According to the published accounts of the incident, the alleged victims, a pair of 28- and 19-year-old males, 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.
Assistant State’s Attorney Scott Larson said the men were walking in the 600 block of East Daniel Street holding hands when Jones drove by in a car. He and others in the car taunted the pedestrians by calling them derogatory names, Larson said. The car stopped, Jones got out and called the men more names, Larson said.
He then hit each of them in the head with a fist. One sustained a cut to the inside of his mouth and the other had swelling around his eyes, he said.
Larson said Jones, a defensive tackle for the Illinois team, told police that he had been “jumped” by one of the men a week earlier.
Larson noted for Judge Rich Klaus that Jones weighs 320 pounds while the alleged victims weigh 140 and 165 pounds. Larson said the attack was recorded on a security video.
… followed by the AP, which adds a little more meat to the “calling them derogatory names” accusation leveled at Jones.
“The occupants of the vehicle were calling out slurs based on their sexual orientation,” Daniels told the AP, adding that the men said they were a couple.
Jones, who also reportedly has a previous conviction for felony possession of cocaine that the school was reportedly unaware of, is currently being held in the Champaign County Jail on a $100,000 bond. A judge refused Jones’ public defender’s request for a bond reduction, and a July 14 date has been set for a preliminary hearing.
It’s also being reported that Jones will not be charged with a “hate crime” as has been rumored across the vast expanses of the Internet. The reason for that? “[A]ggravated battery carries a longer possible sentence — two to five years rather than one to three” the AP writes, quoting a Champaign County state’s attorney..
A university spokesman told the News-Gazette that Jones has been suspended by the football program, although head coach Ron Zook has yet to issue a statement addressing the issue involving one of his players. Or that said player reportedly had a prior felony drug issue that reportedly flew well below his program’s recruitment radar. Reportedly.
And the reason for the multiple uses of the word “reportedly”, especially when it comes to the Illini’s level of awareness as it pertains to a felony drug charge? The News-Gazette wrote the following:
UI spokesman Kent Brown said Jones has been suspended.
Duval County, Fla., records show Jones pleaded guilty in July 2010 to cocaine possession and was sentenced to 60 days probation. Brown said UI football Coach Ron Zook is aware of that conviction.
The AP, on the other hand wrote the following, which contradicts what Brown was quoted as telling the local paper:
Illinois sports information director Kent Brown said that while Zook and his assistant coaching staff conduct extensive background research on recruits they were not aware of Jones’ previous conviction.
OK, they were aware of the cocaine conviction. Or they weren’t. One of the two.
Jones, incidentally, is a three-star member of the Illini’s 2011 recruiting class. Whether he remains a member of Zook’s latest class remains to be seen.
As does how Kent Brown and the university explain away the head-scratching, 180-degree difference in the level of knowledge of the signee’s past as described by the school’s SID to two media outlets.
(Writer’s note: An email was sent to Mr. Brown very early this morning seeking a clarification of the school’s prior knowledge of Jones’ past; if/when there is a response, it will be posted.)
UPDATED 11:53 a.m. ET: Kent Brown was gracious enough to respond to our email and add some clarity to the situation.
“The University and coaching staff was not aware of his legal past prior to this situation of the past weekend,” Brown wrote in his email.
So, that’s that.