LSU will be without its starting quarterback for the season opener, that much we know.
The rest, as coach Les Miles would say, is simply speculation.
On Friday, Miles suspended quarterback Jordan Jefferson and linebacker Josh Johns indefinitely following their arrests for their involvement in a fight one week ago that sent four people to local hospitals.
Earlier Friday, arrest warrants were issued by the Baton Rouge Police Department for both players. The suspensions from Miles came shortly after Jefferson and Johns turned themselves into local authorities.
Jefferson and Johns were both charged with second-degree battery, a felony in Louisiana, posted $5,000 bail and were released after they were booked.
After Friday’s practice, which went on without Jefferson and Johns, Miles said that the team – including him – was shocked by the news of the day.
“There was no sense that something like this was coming,” Miles said.
“I don’t believe there were many that thought that was the outcome. It took some time for (the players) to understand what was going on.
“It’s certainly a tough time for our team. They see a teammate in peril.”
While Miles brought up the issues at hand before the team’s practice, the widespread attention that the case has earned sent the team the message of the day before he had a chance to meet with the group.
“Obviously with the buzz on our campus, the communication happened long before I got to the team, and when I did, there were tears and it was hard on them,” Miles said.
Miles said he stands by the suspensions and has no timetable for lifting them, in large part because of the distraction that the legal proceedings will bring – namely to his one-time starting quarterback.
“I have no idea (on a timeframe), not unless we have further information,” Miles said.
“I told Jordan Jefferson to defend himself fully and participate in the legal system and stand his ground.
“It’s absolutely correct for him to be free at this point to really attend to his personal business. We want to make sure that when he returns, we have a clearer view of the incident and that he can have a clearer view of football – the opportunity for him to be free of what must be a real distraction to him. If he was to play on this football team, that would be too much.”
Miles did not say when Jefferson and Johns would return to practice, and he said that there have not been discussions of whether they would travel to Dallas with the team for the opener against Oregon on Sept. 3.
“That determination not been made,” Miles said. “Certainly not this week.”
Freshman wide receiver Jarvis Landry and sophomore offensive lineman Chris Davenport, the two other Tigers interviewed by the BRPD about the fight on Aug. 19, both practiced on Thursday and are expected at this point to travel with the team next weekend.
However, Miles was not certain if the ongoing investigation would affect any other players.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if it did or did not. There are a lot of different accounts.
“I look forward to knowing more about this incident, period.”
BRPD arrests Jefferson, Johns, then goes silent
Baton Rouge Police Department Chief DeWayne White held a press conference on Friday afternoon, and after plenty of back-and-forth with local media over the past week, the department announced that the case would no longer be discussed in public.
“In the next several days the Baton Rouge Police Department will forward its report relative to these arrests to the District Attorney’s Office for review and final disposition,” White said. “For this reason, and for the purposes of protecting the integrity of an ongoing and continuing investigation into this matter, the department will not comment any further on the merits and facts of this case.”
White’s opening comments were brief, and he left the room – without taking questions from the gathered media – after a statement that lasted just over 2 minutes.
“Today is a sad day for the city of Baton Rouge, today is a sad for the Louisiana State University, the LSU alumni and the countless fans that follow the Tiger football program. It is also a sad day for the Baton Rouge Police Department,” White said.
“The Baton Rouge Police Department, based on numerous of interviews of witnesses, including victims and players implicated in the incident that occurred on August 19, 2011 at 1:30 a.m. in the parking lot of Shady’s Bar on East Boyd, as well as video evidence of certain individuals, all of which were present at the scene and all of whom provided statements which corroborated the culmination of sufficient probable cause to issue a warrants for the arrest of Mr. Jordan Jefferson and Mr. Joshua Johns for the crime of second-degree battery.”
Later in the day, Miles gave his stance.
“They have to run their business in a way that reflects an honest and straightforward investigation and I don’t think communications with the media specific to the event is necessary,” he said.
“I just want, and certainly we all do, want them do a great job.”
Jefferson hires new attorney
After his name was mentioned in the official police report from last week’s fight at Shady’s, all four players implicated by the BRPD for their involvment, including Jefferson, hired local attorney Nathan Fisher – the same attorney that worked with former LSU quarterback Ryan Perrilloux during his legal bouts in Baton Rouge. That changed following Johns’ and Jefferson’s arrest on Friday.
Jefferson hired another Baton Rouge-based attorney, Lewis Unglesby, and Johns retained Tommy Damico.
Reached late Friday afternoon, Unglesby maintained that his client was innocent of second-degree battery – and he made a point to refute claims that Jefferson attacked Andrew Lowery, one of the alleged victims, while he was on the ground.
“Yes, Jordan is still maintaining that he did not kick anyone in the head,” Unglesby said.
“I’m confident with where this is headed. I met with Nathan Fisher and he was very helpful and very cooperative.”
Unglesby said that he met with Jefferson and his family for the first time on Friday.
“I have talked with Jordan’s parents and they are real fine people,” Unglesby said. “They feel Jordan is innocent, and I agree with them in everything that they have said.”
Like Miles, Unglesby said that he was not sure how long the case would drag out.
“Unfortunately the legal system works far too slow for us to have a timetable right now,” Unglesby said.
Unglesby, who graduated from Ole Mississippi in 1971 and earned his Juris Doctor from LSU in 1974, has successfully won acquittals in over 50 felony jury trials in state and federal courts.
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