2 Quinnipiac basketball players apply for accelerated rehabilitation, 3 for straight continuance

Matt Eisenberg

[media-credit id=1459 align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]The five Quinnipiac men’s basketball players who were arrested on assault charges appeared in Meriden Superior Court Tuesday before Judge Philip Scarpellino.

Senior James Johnson and junior Jamee Jackson both applied for accelerated rehabilitation, while junior Dave Johnson, sophomore Ike Azotam and freshman Nate Gause requested straight continuance. The five players will return to Meriden Superior Court Jan. 17.

“It’s what I was looking for,” the players’ defense attorney Thomas Lynch said with a smile. “It’s a fair resolution to the cases.”

According to the State of Connecticut’s judicial branch, accelerated rehabilitation is “a program that gives persons charged with a crime or motor vehicle violation for the first time a second chance.” When a person goes through the program, the person is placed on probation for up to two years, and the charges are dismissed if probation is completed adequately.

“They have a hearing before the judge where we make the argument that both Jamee and James regret the incident and that they will abide by any conditions that the court may put on them, the probation, and if that’s the case then at the end of the probation period the charges are dismissed,” Lynch said.

The incident, which stemmed from an on-campus fight Sept. 18, left four students injured. One student suffered a bruised jaw, cracked tooth and a laceration to the face that required 17 stitches; a second student suffered a broken nose, which required surgery; a third student was allegedly knocked unconscious; and a fourth student suffered facial injuries.

Since two players are applying for accelerated rehabilitation, they have to give the victims a certified letter’s notice of the application, and the victims have the right to attend court and object, according to Lynch.

James Johnson and Azotam were originally arrested Sept. 18 on third-degree assault and second-degree breach of peace charges. The other three players confessed to Hamden Police Dec. 1 to their involvement in the incident. Jackson was charged with conspiracy to commit assault and assault in the third degree and second-degree breach of peace, while Dave Johnson and Gause were charged with third-degree conspiracy to commit assault and second-degree breach of peace.

James Johnson and Azotam pleaded not guilty to their charges at their arraignment Sept. 26, and their pre-trial hearing was postponed to Tuesday after Lynch requested a supplemental Hamden Police report.

All five students have been sanctioned by the university, Quinnipiac head men’s basketball coach Tom Moore said.

“The university had its full investigation,” Lynch said. “The university made its determination as the level of involvement of these students, there was certain level of punishment that was metered out, so the university was satisfied with its investigation.”

Azotam, Dave Johnson and Gause each requested straight continuance. Lynch contested that Azotam was misidentified in the incident.

“Our argument is that their involvement is minimal at best. Our argument all along about Ike Azotam was that he wasn’t involved at all in the incident,” Lynch said. “We’re continuing our discussions with the state’s attorney’s office to hopefully have a resolution.”

Moore and assistant men’s basketball coach Eric Eaton were both present in the court room. All five players, including the three who were arrested last Thursday, played in the team’s game against Sacred Heart that night.

Moore suspended James Johnson for the team’s season-opener vs. Fairfield, but he played in the team’s second game of the season.

“All five team members who were involved have already been appropriately disciplined for the September incident by the university and received team sanctions from me as well,” Moore said in a statement. “No other disciplinary action stemming from this incident is planned at this time.”