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Thursday, January 28, 2010
Dell, Cunningham plead guilty to assault

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Two more Michigan State players have pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery in connection with the Nov. 22 residence hall incident that has cast a dark cloud over the program.

Wide receivers B.J. Cunningham and Mark Dell, both of whom started games this season, entered the guilty pleas as part of an agreement where the more serious charges of conspiracy to commit assault were dropped against them. Both players are scheduled to be sentenced March 8 and face up to 90 days in jail, though it's unlikely they'll receive jail time.

Former Spartans running back Ashton Leggett reached a similar plea agreement Jan. 14, and his lawyer told the Lansing State Journal that the prosecutor is not seeking jail time.

Dell admitted to punching Michigan State student Brent Mitchell after a potluck function held by the Iota Phi Theta fraternity at the residence hall. Mitchell was briefly hospitalized after the incident. Cunningham admitted to kicking someone during the assault.

Both Dell and Cunningham were suspended in December and missed the Alamo Bowl, though they were allowed to attend a team meeting earlier this month. Cunningham ranked second on the team in both receptions (48) and receiving yards (641) in 2009, while Dell ranked third in both categories (26 receptions, 449 yards).

Iota Phi Theta national president Karl Price told me that the potluck event was over by the time the football players arrived. The fraternity's internal investigation identified three victims -- one Iota Phi Theta member and two other MSU students -- as well as five or six eyewitnesses at the residence hall.

"Apparently, this group came in with the specific purpose of looking for Iotas," Price said. "The only reason they knew Mitchell was an Iota was because he was wearing a [fraternity] shirt. From what I understand, at least four of them jumped on him."

Price said there have been previous incidents between the Michigan State football team and Iota Phi Theta members in the past, but nothing in recent months or involving these players in particular.

According to a Michigan State team official, there has been no status change for both Dell and Cunningham. Five other current players and one player planning to transfer from MSU have pretrial hearings in February. If more guilty pleas are coming, it'll be interesting to see how head coach Mark Dantonio handles things.

Several of the players involved in the assault aren't coming back to the Spartans, and Dantonio has dismissed Glenn Winston and Roderick Jennrette, the two players reportedly at the center of the incident. But Dantonio likely will face some heat if he reinstates everyone.