Quinnipiac men’s basketball players plead not guilty to charges

Lenny Neslin and Phil Nobile

Ike Azotam raises his hand, identifying himself to Judge Philip Scarpellino, flanked by lawyer Thomas Lynch (left) and James Johnson. Photo by Anna Brundage/Chronicle

Quinnipiac men’s basketball players Ike Azotam and James Johnson pled not guilty to assault and breach of peace charges in this morning’s arraignment at Meriden Superior Court, defense attorney Thomas Lynch said outside the court.

They are due to return to court Oct. 24 for a judicial pretrial, Judge Philip Scarpellino said.

Lynch said he thinks Azotam, 20, was “misidentified” in the police’s report and that Johnson, 21, was assaulted the night before the incident in which Azotam and Johnson were charged with third degree assault and breach of peace to the second degree. The two basketball players struck students who were attempting to break up a fight, according to the police report.

“This is just one of those situations where there’s two sides to every story,” Lynch said. “Everyone knows the events that happened Saturday night of that weekend, but bottom line is James Johnson was assaulted on Friday night and it spilled over into Saturday.

James Johnson

“We’re also confident once the university’s investigation is completed, it’ll show that Ike Azotam had no involvement whatsoever in this incident. I think he was misidentified, he was charged accordingly, but once the university completes its investigation I think it’ll come to light that he really had no involvement at all.”

No other students were mentioned in the police report and Lynch did not disclose any of the names.

“It’s an ongoing investigation. I don’t want to do anything that will taint that, or cause people to change their stories,” Lynch said. “The university is handling it, they’re handling it properly, and there are set procedures in [Quinnipiac’s] student handbook they have to follow, and they’re doing it. One way or the other there will be some sort of a hearing as a result of this.”

Lynch said neither Azotam nor Johnson have been arrested before or have a history of violence.

Ike Azotam

“There was no off-campus involvement,” Lynch said. “It’s really a Quinnipiac problem that the school will deal with, and once the school deals with it, the criminal justice system will.”

Johnson, a senior, led the Bobcats in scoring last year (16.1 points per game) and Azotam, a sophomore, averaged 5.1 points per game.