A quiet day came and went for the LSU football program Saturday, a welcome oasis after one of the toughest-to-swallow eight-day stretches in recent memory.
No more police statements, no attorneys jockeying back-and-forth in the media, no photos of Jordan Jefferson and Josh Johns going through the potentially life-changing process of getting booked through the legal system.
The only real rumble of attention came when Tigers legend Billy Cannon sounded off on a local ABC station about the ugly fresh scar on the program.
When Monday arrives, No. 4-ranked LSU will get down to business preparing for a new and still very promising season – with the third-ranked Oregon Ducks providing the first major test Saturday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
That’s on the field.
For Jefferson and Johns, the next few days and weeks will be a much different challenge. For those two, the road ahead won’t be easy and it has several different facets.
They took the first step Friday when each hired a new attorney – Jefferson and his family retained Baton Rouge legal star Lewis Unglesby and the Johns’ family enlisted Tommy Damico.
LSU coach Les Miles also cleared their paths, indefinitely suspending both players – in part to give Jefferson and Johns time to focus on their legal defenses and academic responsibilities. Along those lines, they won’t even practice for the foreseeable future.
“We’ve suspended them indefinitely and we’ll have to just see what happens with the legal system,” LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva said. “It’s my hope that they’ll be able to remain in school and go to class and do the things a student needs to do to move forward toward graduation.
“They’re still on our team. We’re going to give them academic support if they need, and any kind of psychological help they need, we’ll help them that way.”
The next step by the criminal justice system will be for the Baton Rouge Police Department to forward the evidence and findings it has gathered to the office of East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III.
Once the DA’s office gets those materials, it will likely conduct its own independent investigation before Moore decides whether the merits of the case warrant a trial. He can then either dismiss the case, ask that the charges be adjusted and resubmitted or send it to a grand jury.
In an interview with WBRZ-TV Friday afternoon after the players’ arrests, Moore said “When this file comes in, it doesn’t come in with a uniform on.”
While the DA’s office launches its part of the process, Unglesby and Damico will also dig in and go to work on additional interviews, which could include more LSU players.
Moore also said it could be 2-6 weeks before the next phase of the process is known.
Meanwhile, the two players facing charges could also have a challenge to contend with in regard to the Code of Student Conduct.
Section 8.2 of the code includes a section that states that “the subject of an agency arrest, including being charged with a misdemeanor offense” is subject to a review by the Office of Student Advocacy and Accountability, which falls under the Dean of Students.
LSU’s Dean of Students, Kathleen White, said her office doesn’t need to wait for the legal system to unfold to take action.
“We don’t have to wait for a resolution, but we do have to at least receive a report,” White said, saying that could come from the BRPD or even the LSUPD if it sees fit to forward the information from its fellow law enforcement agency.
“More often than not, the university tends to be able to move more quickly than your criminal or your civil process.”
Once the information is passed on the Dean of Students office, the university begins a course of action that will, at the very least, put Jefferson and Johns on official notice.
“As soon as our office receives a report from whomever, we look at that to see if there’s a potential violation,” White said.
“We review referral information to see if there’s a violation of non-academic conduct. If we believe there’s enough information that a part of the code has been violated, then the student will receive a charge of behavior letter which outlines what the behavior is and what part of the code might have been violated and then they’re instructed to schedule a meeting with one of our staff members to talk about the behavior and the potential violation.”
Miles made it clear that the Code of Student Conduct is a serious hurdle for the two suspended players.
“I’m certain if they’re found guilty of crime, that will affect how our institution looks at them,” Miles said. “It’s a very serious offense and there’s a Code of Student Conduct that we all sign, every student that goes to school here, and it assures the integrity of the university and those will be issues.”
Unglesby seemed less concerned about the players’ academic futures, saying “They will be fine with the staying in school. All that will work out.”
While that may be true when all of this shakes out, the possible outcome the players face is daunting.
There are a number of penalties they could face White said, ranging from probation to the most dire of outcomes.
“Expulsion is the absolutely most egregious sanction a student could ever receive because that means they would never have an opportunity to return,” White said.
“It’s not a hard-and-fast ‘OK if you have a conviction, this equals an expulsion.’ If they are convicted of a felony within the process of the code, that’s one of the reasons that we could take actions. There’s a whole range of sanctions.”
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