Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Illinois guard Smith allegedly violated probation
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Just a few months before junior guard Jamar Smith was expected to return to the basketball court for Illinois, a prosecutor said Tuesday she wants a judge to revoke his probation for allegedly drinking alcohol.
Smith is serving two years' probation after pleading guilty last year to felony driving under the influence causing great bodily harm. He drove a car into a tree on a snowy night in February 2007, injuring former teammate Brian Carlwell.
Under the terms of Smith's probation, he can't drink.
Champaign police allegedly spotted Smith outside a campus bar about 2:30 a.m. Friday while they broke up an argument, according to Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz and a statement Tuesday from police.
Rietz said she wants to have a judge revoke the 21-year-old Smith's probation. If that happens, he could face anything from more stringent probation to up to 14 years in prison.
Smith wasn't involved in the argument but, according to police, an officer noticed Smith smelled like alcohol. When police asked, Smith admitted he had been drinking, Rietz said.
"They did not arrest him based on anything that happened that night," Rietz said. "But they were aware he was on probation and that he was not supposed to be drinking" and forwarded a report to Rietz's office.
It wasn't immediately clear whether Smith has an attorney. Champaign attorney Mark Lipton, who represented Smith last year, did not return a call Tuesday from The Associated Press.
Messages left Tuesday at a Champaign-area number listed for Smith and with Smith's grandparents in Peoria also weren't immediately returned.
Illinois coach Bruce Weber, who was out of state on a recruiting trip Tuesday, said in a statement he was upset by the news.
"As his coach and someone who cares very much about him, I am disappointed that he would put himself into a compromising position, especially after the commitment he's shown over the last year is his effort to return to our program," Weber said. "We will wait to learn all the facts before commenting any further."
Smith turned himself in at the Champaign County Jail early Tuesday afternoon, a jail spokeswoman said, and left in 26 minutes after posting 10 percent of his $25,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in Champaign County Circuit Court to enter a plea Wednesday.
Since Smith was not arrested, he was not tested for alcohol in his bloodstream, Rietz said.
But prosecutors don't have to prove beyond a doubt that he was drinking for a judge to revoke his probation, according to Rietz -- only that he was "more likely than not" drinking.
Authorities said after the 2007 accident that Smith and Carlwell had been drinking tequila and beer and that Smith, who was then too young to drink legally, had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the state's legal limit of .08.
Smith, who allegedly believed Carlwell was dead, left the accident scene and drove the damaged car and Carlwell back to his apartment, authorities said. Carlwell has since transferred to San Diego State.
Smith sat out last season after his guilty plea but was expected to return to a prominent role on the team this fall if he met unspecified obligations.
Weber said recently Smith was doing well but still had work to do.
"He's come a long way, but there's still bridges to cross," Weber told The (Champaign) News-Gazette last week.
Smith completed a course on drunken-driving risks in May, according to Champaign County court records.