Florida freshman Justin Watkins facing felony domestic battery charge, suspended by Gators

By Adam Silverstein
July 24, 2018
Florida freshman Justin Watkins facing felony domestic battery charge, suspended by Gators

Image Credit: ESPN Images

Florida Gators four-star freshman Justin Watkins has been indefinitely suspended from the football program after being arrested Monday.

Watkins was in custody facing four charges, including a pair of third-degree felonies for domestic battery by strangulation and kidnapping-false imprisonment of an adult. He is also facing two first-degree misdemeanor battery charges. The arrest was made by the University Police Department.

According to the arrest report, Watkins is accused of “intentionally striking [a woman] with an open and closed fist on both sides of her head as well as on her shoulders while he was holding her down on the bed.” He then allegedly straddled the woman while pinning her to the bed again before “wrapp[ing] his hands around [her] throat with both hands, blocking her airway and impeding breathing. Watkins blocked her airway for about 15 seconds, causing a potential for harm. Watkins repeated to block the airway twice more for periods of approximately 8 seconds.”

The woman, with whom Watkins was in an intimate relationship since December 2017, was known to have asthma. The incident took place in Watkins’ Keys Residence dorm room on Friday.

When the woman attempted to leave following Watkins’ actions, he allegedly “confined [her] in his dorm room by standing in the doorway and blocking the exit” and even “grabbed her hair and belt, yanking her back into the room” while she pleaded with him to let her depart. This led to the woman spraying Watkins with mace and escaping the room. Watkins allegedly pursued, “chas[ing] her out the door and down the stairs” before “throw[ing] a hard wooden brush … as well as a container of hair grease” that caused bleeding and swelling on her hands.

Photographs of the injuries taken on Monday, three days after the incident, showed marks that were “consistent with [the woman’s] statement.”

Watkins has spent the last three days in jail on $40,000 bond. There is a standing no contact order with the victim.

This is the second incident in which Watkins has been involved since signing his National Letter of Intent. Back in May, he was arrested for trespassing on school grounds following a verbal altercation with a woman that allegedly included destruction of property.

At the time, head coach Dan Mullen noted he was “aware of the incident” and “collecting information.” No punishment was ever announced for Watkins as this occurred after spring practice and the player was not yet enrolled at Florida.

Watkins has since enrolled in the Summer B semester and formally joined the Gators. Mullen announced Watkins’ suspension “from all team activities” in a Tuesday statement.

Ranked as the 89th best player in the nation, Watkins was expected to join Florida as a wide receiver but may actually begin his career in the secondary — should he wind up remaining on the team this season — due to an immediate need at the cornerback position. Mullen had previously discussed the possibility with Watkins but said he would ultimately let him choose to play where he felt most comfortable in 2018.

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