OTL: Florida Gators had most athletes involved in crimes, Ronald Powell avoided cocaine arrest

By Adam Silverstein
June 14, 2015

An Outside the Lines report released Sunday, the result of a 10-program investigation, found that the Florida Gators had the most football and men’s basketball athletes named in criminal investigations from 2009-14.

OTL found that 80 football and basketball players — making up 24 percent of the combined rosters — were cited for more than 100 crimes during that six-year span, also noting that the Gators had the most repeat offenders.

Twenty-five Florida athletes had multiple run-ins with police, often without facing charges or any public airing of what they did. Several police reports gathered by Outside the Lines also revealed that Florida athletes, if not suspected of criminal activity themselves, often hung out with people who were known offenders.

The television program that aired Sunday focused on former Gators running back Chris Rainey, noting that he had five run-ins with law enforcement during his time in Gainesville but was only cited once after allegedly pulling his then-girlfriend out of the car and slapping her after she took his cell phone.

The OTL story released online led with a previously unreported incident involving former linebacker Ronald Powell, who is currently a member of the New Orleans Saints.

A Gainesville police officer stopped [Powell] for a lane violation in 2014 – just a few months after he had been drafted by the New Orleans Saints. The officer noted that the address on his driver’s license was a known drug house. A canine officer came to the scene and flagged a likely presence of narcotics in the car, and the investigating officer searched it, finding a white powdery substance on the driver’s seat that she tested on site.

“You have cocaine in your car alright,” the officer said on the video during the traffic stop. “There’s reasons why I asked the questions I asked. You can’t answer questions straight. There’s more in there, so I can easily charge you. But you’re not in handcuffs OK, so just chill out.”

Powell was ultimately released by the officer and only given a warning for the lane violation. Despite him driving a rental car, the officer cited in the police report “that she did not believe the cocaine was Powell’s but was likely tied to a known drug offender who lived at the same address.”

However, OTL‘s Paula Lavigne, the lead reporter and investigator on the story, noted that Powell had been in trouble with local police before when in 2012 he “started yelling at and threatening the owner of a local store who wouldn’t give him items for free in addition to others he had planned to purchase.” He also received a warning for that incident.

Lavigne also cited previously known incidents, such as cornerback Janoris Jenkins both being involved in a fight in 2009 and having marijuana found in a car he was present in a year later. She also referenced defensive back Moses Jenkins‘s handful of minor incidents.

According to Lavigne, 56 percent of cases involving Florida football and men’s basketball players were either not prosecuted or dropped from 2009-14. Compared to the general population of “college-age males in Gainesville,” that number was double the 28 percent of those men who are accused of committing a crime but are either not charged or have their case dropped.

Florida State fell just behind UF in the full OTL report and was also the subject of the feature story that aired Sunday on ESPN.

Lavigne found that 66 FSU football and basketball players (18 percent of the combined rosters) were alleged to have committed crimes but 70 percent – a much higher number – either never received charges or were not prosecuted due to charges being dropped. That rate in the state capital of Tallahassee was also found to be higher, though, with 50 percent of “college-age males” facing similar circumstances.

OTL chose eight other programs: Auburn, Michigan State, Missouri, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Texas A&M and Wisconsin for its report. Curiously not included are some of the larger programs in some of those states, such as Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas.

FSU and Oregon State are accused of reaching out to both police and state attorneys in order to either interfere with investigations or convince officials to either not charge player or have charges against them dropped.

Michigan State and Notre Dame are currently in legal battles with ESPN to not release their information in one form or another. Here’s how OTL handled its investigation.


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