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Friday, October 19, 2012
Trevor Mbakwe avoids jail sentence

By Myron Medcalf
ESPN.com

Former All-Big Ten player Trevor Mbakwe avoided jail time during a Friday court hearing in Miami that threatened to interrupt his basketball career, according to Ed Griffith, spokesperson for the Miami-Dade state attorney's office.

The Minnesota forward was ordered to Miami as result of a September DUI conviction, which served as a possible violation of his probation from an earlier case.

Although he faced jail time, Mbakwe received additional probation and community service. He also reached a civil settlement with the woman at the center of a felony assault case that commenced his legal troubles in Florida.

Trevor Mbakwe
Trevor Mbakwe had been ordered to Miami as result of a September DUI conviction, which served as a possible violation of his probation from an earlier case.

"Judge Fernandez determined that the defendant (Trevor Mbakwe) was not a danger to the community, thus Judge Fernandez had the discretion to extend probation which he did, by two years. He did modify it to reporting probation instead of non-reporting probation, and ordered the defendant to perform 20 hours of community service a month and attend AA meetings three times a week," Griffith said via email.

"The victim's civil attorney was present and he and the criminal defense attorney knocked out a confidential civil settlement prior to the hearing. They refused to let any prosecutor or the criminal court know what the terms of that agreement actually were.

"The Judge was asked (by the victim's attorney) to extend probation to 4 years with early termination upon satisfaction of the civil settlement. The Judge decided to [give] him 2 years' probation and did not make the confidential civil settlement part of the criminal court probation. The judge indicated that if the defendant does not comply with the civil settlement, then the victim's attorney should go to civil court to enforce the settlement, not the criminal courts."

Mbakwe, who's preparing for his sixth year of college basketball after missing the majority of last season with a torn ACL, did not play during the 2009-10 season as he awaited trial on the original felony assault charge.

His accuser claimed that Mbakwe punched her and broke bones in her face that required surgery. Mbakwe maintained his innocence but entered a pretrial intervention program that promised to expunge the charge if he stayed out of trouble.

Mbakwe failed to do that.

In 2011, he was arrested for violating a restraining order after he sent a Facebook message to a former girlfriend. He eventually pled guilty to misdemeanor violation of the restraining order. That incident re-opened the Florida case and the potential for Mbakwe to go to jail for failure to adhere to the pretrial intervention program's rules.

A judge in Florida ordered a probation violation hearing after Mbakwe pled guilty to a driving under the influence charge stemming from an incident in Minnetonka, Minn., in July.

The Gophers acknowledged the former Big Ten rebounding leader's conviction during their season-opening media day. A source close to the team told ESPN.com that Mbakwe would not miss any games because the program had already handled the matter "internally."

But head coach Tubby Smith suggested that Mbakwe was still on thin ice and had a variety of requirements to complete before he'd be cleared to play in 2012-13.

"You're talking about a guy that played seven games last year," Smith told reporters. "So he's got a lot to do to prove that he's going to be able to contribute."

Mbakwe is a projected first-round pick on many boards, despite last season's ACL tear. The 6-foot-8 forward could be the difference between the NIT and the NCAA tournament for the Gophers.