You've Got Questions, I've Got Answers

After a day and half of tracking the Avery Atkins story and trying to get to the bottom of it, the emails, instant messages, private messages and questions in the chat room require more detailed answers. This is a complicated issue and there aren't a lot of easy answers. Here are some of your questions and my attempts to make sense of what has happened.

Jeff wrote, "How is it that Dot beat you guys to this story? Why did Warchant have it almost a full day before you could find anything?"

Dot says the charging affidavit that tells this tale was faxed to him from someone in Daytona Beach but you would have to ask Dot for sure where it came from. I do know that it was a report that was not supposed to be given to the press but once it became apparent that it was circulating all over the internet, Sgt. Al Tolley from the Daytona Beach Police Department began emailing copies of the report to media outlets upon their request (he was kind enough to send a copy to Gator Country). How Dot got it really isn't so much the issue here because whether or not Dot got the charging affidavit there was a police call made and a report was filed, which means there is a story. It's fair if you question Dot's motives for using this as message board fodder rather than following up the story, but there is no question that Dot had in his possession what he claimed.

Once the allegation was made, we started calling law enforcement agencies and people close to Avery to see if it was true with the determination that we would report whatever we found, good or bad. It sounds pretty easy but it wasn't for a number of reasons.

First off, we were under the assumption that Avery Atkins had been arrested or that there was a warrant issued for his arrest because of this incident so we were making our calls asking about an arrest and/or warrant for Avery Jamar Atkins for an alleged incident that happened on Saturday. The Daytona Beach Police had no record of an arrest and the Volusia County Sheriff's office had no record of a warrant issued. The Volusia County Jail's booking officers (all arrests in Volusia County no matter the law enforcement agency are booked at the VCJ) and the State Attorney for the seventh judicial circuit said there was no outstanding warrant nor had there been an arrest or booking so naturally we thought we were hitting dead ends when in reality, we were getting honest answers. We just weren't asking the right questions. Some of the other media folks that we were in contact with Monday night were telling us the same story --- lots of dead ends.

I got a private message from GatorLawClerk Tuesday morning that told me that Avery had been charged with Aggravated Battery on March 11, 2006 but that the charges were dismissed on April 17, 2006 (case #0632078CFAS). This was confirmed by the Volusia County Clerk of Court. Bob Redman's sources discovered that this was a fight between Avery and another male. Further investigation said that the charges were dismissed because Avery did not start the fight but when attacked defended himself. This was helpful but it didn't explain the Saturday incident.

Dave Curtis, the fine UF beat writer for the Orlando Sentinel, actually got the first break when he got a copy of the police report from Erin Ailworth, the Sentinel's Daytona Beach police beat reporter. Dave's story basically confirmed that Dot had indeed come across a copy of the police report but it also shed further light on the story when Sgt. Tolley indicated that there were no arrests made and that there would be sit down meetings between Avery Atkins, Benarah Sanford (the girl friend and mother of Avery's child) and the police to determine if there should be an arrest, further investigation or charges dropped.

We followed up Dave's story with questions of our own to the Volusia County State Attorney's office which told us that that they will get a copy of this report in 7-10 days following the DBPD's final disposition (charge or dismiss charges) and they will then review all the information and decide if further investigation is warranted. Even if they do not investigate they will file this actively in case there are further disturbances between Atkins and Sanford.

When we had gathered the information we felt was relevant we posted a story that gave the facts.

w4noles wrote: "Great job of going to lengths to defend this women-beater. You sound like Baghdad Bob. Face it, you can't stand that Gene slapped egg on your face."

So far, I can't see how we've defended Avery. Just as there is one side of the story that says he hit Benarah Sanford multiple times there is another side corroborated by witnesses that says he didn't. I don't know the answers to this one so unless you were there, you really don't know for sure that Avery is a "women-beater," do you? Maybe when it's all said and done, your point will be proven. Perhaps not. We'll see how the story unfolds.

As for Gene "slapping egg on my face," how did that happen? Gene Williams ( got a report on Monday that somehow nobody else got until Tuesday. We followed all the leads until we confirmed that there was indeed a report and when we confirmed it, we printed it on the front page of Gator Country as a free story for anyone to read. While we were trying to run this story down, we updated as often as we can to make this as transparent as possible that we were trying to get to the bottom of the story and not trying to cover things up --- it was predicted by quite a few fans from Tallahassee that we would likely try to cover things up or alter the truth. Well, we didn't cover up and we didn't alter. So, sorry to ruin your day but there's no reason to have egg on the face on this.

In the chat room, JPGator asked, "Do you think Avery is gone no matter if there are charges filed against him or not?"

That's a fair question, particularly based on how one problem has been compounded by another in the last three months with Avery. That's going to be Urban Meyer's call and he's probably in as good a position as anyone to make that final determination. I think Coach Meyer is well aware that there are a lot of eyes on him right now and no matter the decision he makes, there will be supporters and detractors.

I do know that he has a zero-tolerance policy for any player that would strike a woman in anger. Benarah Sanford's side of the story is that Avery struck her multiple times (13-17) and held her against her will in his car. In the same police report, there are two witnesses that give a far different account of the series of events and their recount of what happened seems far more in line with the statement that Avery made to the police, that he was attacked and he fended the girl off. It would seem that being struck in the face 13 times by a 190-pound football player in the kind of physical condition that Avery Atkins is in would result in serious injuries and would result in an arrest on the spot, but since I wasn't there, all I can do is point out that there were no arrests made and the investigation is still ongoing.

I can also point out that on page six of the police report it states, "Sanford completed a sworn written statement advising she does not wish to press charges."

That's what Urban Meyer will have to consider when he makes his final decision about Avery. If Avery stays on the team, I have to believe it will be because the evidence supports Avery in this matter and that Avery has made the effort to get back in the good graces of the coaches and the team. If he is dismissed, I believe it will be because Coach Meyer has weighed all the evidence and he believes this is appropriate action.

93Nole99 wrote, "Of course Avery Atkins hasn't been arrested. He was gone when the police got there. He is being hidden by his family."

Then why is it that Avery was there when the police arrived and he made a statement that is in the report? That statement wasn't made by cell phone. If Avery was wanted by the police, there would be a warrant out for his arrest and there has been no warrant filed with the Volusia County Sheriff's office (confirmed by Deputy Brandon Haught at the Sheriff's office). Avery is in Gainesville where he is working while waiting for the beginning of the Summer B term for which he is enrolled. That has been confirmed. He's in plain sight for any authority that needs to question him.

TomT wrote, "Can we ever trust Avery Atkins again? Trouble seems to follow him around. If he stays on the team he will be a distraction if he's always in trouble. Maybe it's best to part ways now and give him a release to any D-1 school that isn't in the SEC or the state of Florida."

Once again, I will defer this one to Urban Meyer. Urban is big on trust and if he doesn't feel he can trust Avery, then you can bet he will be dismissed permanently from the team. What I can tell you from being at nearly every single practice, game, speech, etc. that Meyer has been involved with since he's been at Florida is that he has a keen sense of right and wrong but he's also not going to throw out a salvageable kid. If he feels that Avery is repentant and has learned from these difficult personal experiences, then I think Avery will get a second chance here. But, I'm not Urban Meyer, I'm not going to tell him how to do his job and I'm not going to second guess him when he makes his final decision no matter what decision that proves to be. Personally, I hope that Avery is vindicated from this most recent charge and that he can get his life in order. The Avery Atkins I've known for more than two years is a good kid and not a trouble maker.

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