Six Bulldogs Booked For May 1 Court Date

They've taken a quick trip to jail. Now six Mississippi State football players will spend a long four weeks awaiting their day in court.

Six scholarship members of the Bulldog roster are facing felony assault charges in connection with an off-campus incident that occurred Saturday evening in downtown Starkville. Five—defensive end Charles Burns, safety Keith Fitzhugh, offensive tackle Michael Gates, cornerback Derek Pegues, and defensive end Quinton Wesley—were arrested Sunday evening. A sixth, quarterback Tray Rutland, was arrested Monday afternoon.

The arrests arise from a fight that occurred at Level III, a Main Street nightspot, late Saturday evening during a party held by two campus sororities. Published reports have an argument between two women turning into a fight involving an off-duty Starkville City patrolman and a number of MSU football players attending the party. After the fight was halted in the nightclub, it resumed outside before the accused players left the scene.

The five players arrested Sunday made a brief trip to the Webster County jail as the Starkville City facility was full. All five were soon released after posting $25,000 bond each. They were initially scheduled to appear in Municipal Court Monday afternoon, but at the scheduled 2:00 hearing reporters were told the players would not have to appear as they had already been released on bond.

Their appearance in court has now been scheduled for May 1.

MSU Coach Sylvester Croom, who learned of the arrests Sunday, had not issued an official statement on the matter as of 5:00 Monday. An athletic department spokesman said Coach Croom preferred not to comment on the incident or the status of these players until Tuesday, prior to the afternoon practice. However, Croom has indicated that regardless of how the legal proceedings turn out there will be strong team disciplinary action taken with all the players involved.

There was no football practice scheduled for Monday. This is the final week of spring camp, with scheduled practices Tuesday and Thursday and the spring game on Saturday afternoon at Scott Field.

The incident occurred the evening following an afternoon scrimmage game, the second full scrimmage of spring camp. Five of the six players arrested participated in the scrimmage, with Burns sitting it out as he rehabilitates from off-season shoulder surgery.

All of the players arrested were on either the first or second teams after three weeks of camp. Sophomore Pegues was first-team at left cornerback, where he played as a backup all 11 games as a 2005 true freshman as well as on special teams. Fitzhugh also played as a true freshman last fall, starting one game and participating in all 11. He was currently first-team at safety this spring, with 2005 starter Demario Bobo sidelined this spring after a winter knee operation.

True-sophomore Gates began spring camp as #1 at right tackle, but lost that position after a week and was working on the second team in the most recent scrimmage. He played six games at tackle last fall. Burns also played in 11 freshman-season games, in a limited reserve role at end.

Rutland and Wesley were redshirted last season, though both dressed out for every game. Rutland was the #2 quarterback this spring and getting significant snaps with the varsity offense. Wesley was in a rotation with the starting defensive line at one end, though he has also practiced at tackle.

All six players are either 18 or 19 years of age.

Tuesday's practice begins around 4:00. Croom's statements on this subject will be published shortly afterwards, separate from the standard practice report. Any practice impacts on the depth chart from this incident will be included in the report.

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