Kearney will not be suspended

ATHENS – Georgia football player Tavares Kearney will not be expelled from school or suspended for any academic term, he learned Thursday, and the freshman linebacker expects to be in Mark Richt's good graces when he reports to camp today.

Tavares Kearney and his mother, Atlanta radio personality Wanda Smith, met with Kim Ellis, Georgia's associate dean of students for judicial programs, Thursday afternoon to discuss his punishment for a July 19 classroom confrontation with a teaching assistant. At that meeting, Kearney denied the claim a female teaching assistant made in a written statement to UGA police that Kearney squeezed her hand and twisted her arm to the point where she thought a bone would break in an attempt to retrieve his cell phone.

"I know she feels like I twisted her hand, but I didn't," he said. "It's my word against her's."

Kearney admitted grabbing his cell phone away from the teaching assistant but denied causing her any harm. The teaching assistant filed a simple battery report with the UGA Police Department but declined to press charges.

The teaching assistant originally asked Kearney for his phone because she suspected him of using it to cheat, however he was cleared of that charge by Georgia's office of academic honesty.

"She snatched (the phone) from him and he snatched it back from her," Smith said. "To me, the most important part of this is over and that's the academic issue. I knew that was false."

On Thursday, the school also cleared Kearney of one of the three disorderly conduct charges he faced. The charge that was dropped involves disruption or obstruction of teaching. The school still is pursuing charges that he is guilty of engaging in conduct that causes a disturbance and a regulation regarding physical and verbal abuse.

Although no resolution was reached at Thursday's meeting, Ellis said Kearney is in no danger of being dismissed from the school or suspended for a semester. She added that her office's investigation of the charges is complete.

"We talked about some options today," she said.

Smith said Ellis proposed a punishment plan for her son that basically amounted to a probationary period. Kearney now will decide if he wants to accept that punishment or go before a disciplinary committee in hopes of receiving a lesser reprimand. He will decide in the next two or three days, his mother said.

Regardless of what Kearney decides, he said he has been told by Richt that he won't receive any further punishment from the football team. However, Richt declined through a spokesperson to comment on Thursday's events. Last week, he said he wouldn't decide on how he wanted to handle Kearney's situation until the university had resolved all of its issues.

"All the coaches have been calling my cell phone saying, ‘Ms. Smith, we need to get that boy on the field,'" Smith said. "Hearing from the coaches, they felt in their heart that Tavares was innocent anyway."

Kearney and the rest of the Bulldogs will begin practice Friday afternoon.

"I'm ready to get back out there and start," Kearney said.


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