Sep 062006
 
Authors: Brett Okamoto The Rocky Mountain Collegian

Twelve years in prison and a $500,000 fine maximum penalty.

Anyone want to have that in the back of their mind?

“Theoretically that’s the worse case scenario,” said Kirk Brush, a criminal defense attorney in Fort Collins for the past 20 years. “I’ve never seen that imposed; it’s only for drug dealers and habitual thieves. But technically, it could happen.”

While Brush couldn’t comment on the class four felony charges filed against Robert Herbert, Micah Crews and Brian Abata because he’s not representing them, he did say the following about what these guys are up against:

“In every criminal case you’re entitled to a jury. In a felony case a jury of 12 is necessary and they must unanimously vote you guilty. Most cases don’t go to trial, either because the district attorney doesn’t have enough evidence or the defense attorney knows his client is guilty and enters a plea bargain.”

So while the rest of the Ram football team will worry about the Colorado Buffaloes this weekend, Herbert, Crews and Abata will worry about whether or not their lawyers can keep them out of jail.

“It’s very unlikely that a first time, non-violent offender would see jail time,” Brush said. “Legally possible absolutely – but rare.”

It’s great if these guys can escape this without any horrible legal ramifications, but how much have they lost already?

Head Coach Sonny Lubick announced Wednesday that he wouldn’t take the Gary Barnett approach to the recent scandal and suspended the players from the team indefinitely. It’s harsh to sound as though these guys have already been tried and convicted, but in the world of sports different rules should apply – you’re guilty until proven innocent.

“Their teammates were sad, they like these guys,” Lubick said. “If we had kept them on the team they’d be alright with that but by NCAA rules they’re gone. I don’t even know if they’ll be reinstated to CSU.”

Besides being terminated from the team, the players will also certainly face repercussions from the university.

“Anyone enrolled at CSU charged with a crime faces CSU disciplinary,” Brush said. “I have lots of students who I represent and we’re always worried about two aspects: The court consequences and then whether or not they’re going to stay in school.”

As far as monetary damages, a lot will depend on the bargain and exactly how much restitution the victims are asking for.

“There is no limit to restitutions,” Brush said. “It’s not there for pain and suffering, it’s all about how much the victims lost out of pocket.”

Every column is supposed to have a point and here’s mine – these guys made a horrible mistake. They’re not thugs, they’re not horrible people – Herbert offered me cookies the first time I talked with him in the locker room. Their actions, however, are inexcusable.

They let their team down, who now have to scramble again to focus on football instead of the many distractions that have already plagued the team before they’ve played their first meaningful football game. They let their coaches down who wanted to see them succeed. And they let the fans down who stood by them.

Most importantly they let themselves down. All the blood, sweat and tears these guys put into the game and this is how they go out?

These guys aren’t going to spend any time on a chain gang. They’ll be released with relatively few legal consequences. I’m just disappointed that I’ll never get to see Robert Herbert in green and gold again – that’s the worst part of it all.

Staff writer Brett Okamoto can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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