Former Baylor and Boise State football player Sam Ukwuachu has had his conviction for sexual assault overturned, but he is far from free just yet. The 10th Couth of Appeals in Texas overturned a sexual assault conviction on Thursday and is sending the case back to district court for a brand new trial.
The Court of Appeals determined phone evidence used by the prosecution was improperly used and attained.
“In six issues, Ukwuachu complains that the trial court erred by allowing the State to reference the cell phone records of his roommate during its cross-examination of his roommate and his roommate’s friend, that the indictment was defective, that evidence of an extraneous offense was improperly admitted, that his due process rights were violated due to an abuse of the grand jury process by the State, and that text messages between the victim and a friend of hers the night of the alleged offense were improperly excluded,” an elaborate ruling from the Court of Appeals explained. “Because we find that the trial court erred by disallowing the admission of evidence … we reverse the judgment of conviction and remand this proceeding for a new trial.”
“While I respect the 10th Court of Appeals, I disagree with their decision and reasoning in this case,” McLennan County District Attorney Abelk Reyna said upon learning of the appeal decision. “I am extremely confident in the decisions made by our prosecutors and the rulings made by Judge Johnson in the trial of this case.”
Ukwuachu transferred from Boise State to Baylor after being dismissed by the Broncos program in 2013, reportedly following a case of depression in Boise. Boise State denied any knowledge of Ukwuachu’s violence toward women when he was with the program, which was prompted by comments from former Baylor head coach Art Briles. Former Boise State head coach Chris Petersen did claim to have informed Briles of Ukwuachu’s violent past.
Ukwuachu was found guilty and sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 years probation for rape in August 2015.
The alleged victim of Ukwuachu has already settled a lawsuit with Baylor.
Baylor introduced new head coach Matt Rhule in a press conference setting today, and it would seem Rhule has already gotten some opportunities to speak to his new players in Waco. One player in particular delivered a promise to the new Bears head coach. Baylor wide receiver KD Cannon reportedly made a bowl game guarantee to Rhule.
Baylor started the season with a 6-0 record but dropped their last six games to enter the bowl season at just 6-6. The Broncos of Boise State finished the season with a 10-2 record and second in the Mountain Division behind Wyoming in the Mountain West Conference. Boise State has won six bowl game sin the last seven seasons between head coaches Chris Petersen (now at Washington) and Bryan Harsin.
Personally, I’m still trying to figure out how many people thought pairing Boise State and Baylor in a bowl game would be a good idea, considering the unfortunate story surrounding former Boise State and Baylor player Sam Ukwuachu. We can focus plenty on the non-controversial stuff leading up to the Cactus Bowl, but that is one story that cannot be totally overlooked either, especially given the current state of the Baylor football program.
Baylor and Boise State have never faced each other in football. The two will play in the Cactus Bowl in Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday, Dec. 27.
On Tuesday Boise State released a statement explaining the university was unaware of former defensive end Sam Ukwuachu and his violent past, saying that was not the reason for his dismissal from the program in 2013. According to a report from Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com, citing records obtained through a Texas district court, Ukwuachu was dismissed from the Broncos football team just days after doctors diagnosed Ukwuachu with a major depressive disorder.
Baylor head coach Art Briles said there was no information shared by Boise State regarding a violent side of Ukwuachu as the player was looking to transfer. Former Boise State head coach Chris Petersen, now at Washington, released a statement saying he was as forthcoming as possible with Briles and that his intention was to help Ukwuachu move forward from off-field issues. Petersen’s comments never confirmed those issues were of a violent nature, and this new information would seem to fit right into the equation. Ukwuachu is a Texas native, so the idea of playing meaningful football closer to home may have ideal. No Boise State official was aware of his alleged violence off the field, the university states.
During Ukwuachu’s recent trial, in which he was found guilty of rape and sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 years probation, his former girlfriend at Boise State testified she was the victim of Ukwuachu’s violence but she never contacted police or Boise State officials. Court records also show Ukwuachu was drug tested 20 times while at Boise State. The same documents also show Ukwuachu was using synthetic marijuana to cope with his depression, which led to suicidal thoughts. He was prescribed an antidepressant and an antipsychotic.
Depression can be a major hurdle for any person, and can lead to violence. This should not be used as an excuse for Ukwuachu’s actions, but the psychology of it all is very much worth examining. And if all Baylor knew about was the psychological concerns regarding Ukwuachu, and not the violent episodes, then it is much easier to see how he ended up at Baylor in the end.
The SEC made a bold move by prohibiting players with a domestic violence past to be prohibited from transferring to a program within the conference. In light of the recent story at Baylor and Sam Ukwuachu, the Big 12 is now preparing to adopt a similar rule.
Big 12 athletic directors have voted in support of a policy following the script drafted by the SEC with regard to players with conduct problems and transfers. The policy must still be formally approved by a joint council, according to Kirk Bohls, but everybody appears to be on board with the new policy, and it may even be made stronger before it is added to the Big 12 policies. Big 12 athletic directors are scheduled to review the new policy at a meeting on September 22. It will then be presented to the Big 12 board of directors on October 26.
Texas Athletics Directors Steve Patterson and Chris Plonsky have expressed a desire to adopt a stronger version of the SEC model. What that would entail remains unknown, although it may extend the reach of what falls under the category of misconduct.
The timing may make it seem the Big 12 is simply reacting to the Baylor story, but the topic had previously been discussed before. Given the sensitive nature of the story that unfolded at Baylor though, the Big 12 would be silly to hold up approving this new policy at this point. Now it will be up to the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 (and any other conference) to follow up with similar policy changes.
Baylor made the decision to shut down media availability today and until next week when the Bears begin preparing for the first game of the season. Perhaps that was a good idea as Sports Illustrated has reported one coach from the SEC made the decision to steer clear of Sam Ukwuachu back in 2013 due to an explanation of Ukwuachu’s off-field troubles while at Boise State.
According to a report from Sports Illustrated‘s Thayer Evans, former Florida head coach Will Muschamp entertained the possibility of recruiting Ukwuachu as he was transferring from Boise State. Muschamp changed his mind, allegedly, after being informed by Boise State officials of Ukwuachu’s alleged violence toward his girlfriend. This would be the same sort of information of which Baylor head coach Art Briles has said he had no knowledge.
From Sports Illustrated;
Florida considered taking Ukwuachu in May 2013, but then-Gators coach Will Muschamp decided against it after a Boise State athletic department employee detailed Ukwuachu’s troubles with a girlfriend, according to two former Florida athletic department employees.
That included the former freshman All-America defensive end’s alleged physical abuse of his girlfriend and an allegation that Ukwuachu put his fist through a window while drunk at the couple’s home, one of the ex-staffers said. (Ukwuachu was not charged in either incident.)
“There was no way,” one of the former Florida employees told The Inside Read of Ukwuachu. “[Muschamp] wouldn’t touch him.”
Ukwuachu ended up at Baylor in 2013 but never played a game for the Bears. Last week Ukwuachu was found guilty of raping a Baylor soccer player and sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 months probation. In response, Baylor has announced it will open an internal investigation into the university’s handling of Ukwuachu. Briles said former Boise State coach Chris Petersen (now at Washington) did not disclose any information about Ukwuachu’s violent past, although Petersen has said he provided as much information as possible to Baylor’s staff.
Muschamp is now the defensive coordinator at Auburn.