Seven suspended Florida Gators offered pre-trial diversion in fraud case

By Adam Silverstein
October 26, 2017
Seven suspended Florida Gators offered pre-trial diversion in fraud case

Image Credit: ESPNI

Seven of the nine Florida Gators presently serving indefinite suspensions while the state determines whether to formally charge them with various counts of third-degree felony fraud have been offered pre-trial diversions that will would allow them to see those charges expunged should they complete the steps set forth in the intervention process.

Among those seven are the two biggest names missing from Florida’s roster in a pair of junior star playmakers: wide receiver Antonio Callaway and running back Jordan Scarlett.

“We’ve been made aware of some updates in the legal process and there are still steps to go that include university student conduct code,” coach Jim McElwain said in a statement released by the school.

Only two of the seven players were not offered pre-trial diversions in redshirt freshman defensive lineman Jordan Smith and freshman offensive lineman Kadeem Telfort, who were the two greatest offenders in the case. Smith faces five third-degree felony charges, while Telfort faces roughly 30 due to a significant amount of smaller transactions he allegedly made.

Junior defensive lineman Keivonnis Davis, who was expected to see time as a rotational player this season, along with redshirt sophomore DL Richerd Desir-Jones, redshirt freshman WR Rick Wells and freshman linebackers James Houston IV and Ventrell Miller are the other five offered pre-trial diversion who each faced two third-degree felony charges like Callaway and Scarlett.

Sworn affidavits were filed against the accused on Sept. 25, though the state has not yet formally charged any of the nine players.

“We obviously took this matter very seriously as evidence[d] by Coach McElwain’s decision to suspend the players immediately and indefinitely from all team activities,” athletic director Scott Stricklin said last month. “We have respected the appropriate process from the beginning and will continue to do so.”

Per UF policy, students are generally suspended from school while facing felony charges. That means student-athletes like football players would be ineligible to compete under such circumstances.

A common pre-trial diversion helps ensure people without criminal records do not ultimately face charges as long as they have been accused of a relatively minor crime. In this case, players would likely be forced to return the stolen funds (which has already occurred), perform community service and take part in programs that prevent future criminal acts. One could see players in PTD potentially having their suspensions lifted with punishment being time served if allowed to continue in school.

The players offered PTDs will not be able to accept them until they get a day in court and stand in front of a judge, which is likely still a couple weeks away. The University of Florida student conduct council will also be involved in deciding whether the players are able to remain in school and therefore eligible to play for the team.

In other words, it is unlikely that any of the nine players charged will suit up for the Gators this season. Callaway — a potential first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft — will face a difficult decision of whether to return to school considering the character concerns he will now face in attempting to become a professional coming out of a year-long suspension. Scarlett will face a similar choice, though his stock was not as high entering 2017 as that of Callaway, and a decision to return to school — if possible — may be in his long-term best interest. The other five players offered pre-trial diversions — should they accept them and complete the process — would likely have the opportunity to return to the team in 2018.

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