Illini junior guard Jaylon Tate appeared in court on Friday afternoon during his pretrial hearing, and trial is set to officially begin on June 7 at 9:00 a.m.
Tate was arrested on March 12 and charged with domestic battery for allegedly striking Illinois women's softball player Hailey Pieruccini in the face. Tate plead not guilty at his arraignment hearing to follow, and his attorney, Evan Bruno, has continued to proclaim his innocence.
On Friday, Bruno presented Judge John R. Kennedy with an affidavit from six people who were with Tate "all night" and said there was no physical contact between Tate and Pierunccini. On the other side, Assistant State's Attorney Stephanie Hall presented three statements from people Pieruccini talked to following the alleged event.
Judge Kennedy admitted two of the three exhibits as meeting the threshold for excited utterance, which are statements that are made under stress following a startling event. Therefore, those two subjects will be enabled to testify in court.
One of those subjects is fellow softball player Kate Giddens, who Pieruccini allegedly told her "Jaylon hit me" - according to Hall.
Bruno addressed that and the case as a whole to the media.
"This is a case where people weren't there (and) made assumptions," he said. "What we're going to do now is get ready for trial. And the ball is in the state's court to come forward with evidence. So far, we haven't seen any evidence that Jaylon is guilty of this offense, and there won't be any."
Bruno also presented Judge Kennedy with an email that was claimed to be from Pieruccini sent to the Bruno Law Offices, which says that Pieruccini hit herself.
Tate's family was in attendance for the hearing. His mother, Arisa Johnson, spoke to the media afterwards.
"The U of I basketball program, the men's program, has been supportive in standing by Jay," Johnson said. "Especially Coach (John) Groce, who I know it was very difficult for him to have to contact me that day and break to me this very upsetting news."
"This has been a nightmare. It has turned our world upside down as a family, and with what Jay is having to endure. And just kinda go through as a mother, as a parent, it is very hard. It's heartbreaking. It's hurtful."
Johnson added that Groce's support has meant so much to her and the family.
"The thing that has given me strength and allowed me to endure this and moving forward is Coach Groce telling me in that conversation that he believed in Jay's innocence and that he was telling the truth."
Bonnie Johnson, Tate's grandmother, talked about it as well.
"To be out to dinner and see his mug shot flashed on ESPN across the country, that was very devastating to us as a family because that's not who he is," she said. "He's the one that comes home for break and goes to the community center and supports the kids there, where he played basketball from five years old. That's who he is."
"We hope the justice system will prevail, because we brought him up with values and morals, and to respect women. He has a sister, a mother and a grandmother, and we know Jaylon is not guilty of these charges."
Tate's mother closed the interview with their intentions for him to get back to his normal life.
"We want this to end so Jay can resume his activities of being a U of I student-athlete, and that's what he is," she said.