Crime

Masoli suspended for entire 2010 season



Jeremiah Masoli, starting quarterback for the Oregon football team, and former receiver Garrett Embry pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary Friday afternoon in Lane County Circuit Court.

In conjunction with the guilty plea, head coach Chip Kelly has suspended Masoli for the entire 2010 season.

Kelly also announced he is suspending running back LaMichael James, who pleaded guilty to an assault charge Friday morning, and kicker Rob Beard, who was convicted of assault earlier this month, for the season opener against New Mexico.

“I am extremely disappointed anytime any of our players fall short of our expectations that have been clearly outlined for them in advance on numerous occasions, and this is especially true regarding their roles within the community,” Kelly said in a press release. “Their accountability for their actions is paramount and any tainting of the reputation of the University of Oregon and this football program will not be tolerated.”

Masoli, Embry charged with misdemeanors

Masoli and Embry admitted to being at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity on Jan. 24, where they stole two Apple laptops and a projector. The projector was returned, but the laptops were never recovered.

Based on the two’s jointly filed guilty plea, they are charged with a misdemeanor count of burglary instead of a felony. Lane County District Attorney Alex Gardner said the type of felony they were facing, a Class C, sometimes gets reduced to a misdemeanor.

Masoli and Embry — as part of the plea deal — face a year on probation, 140 hours community service, and must pay full restitution to the victims in the next 10 days. The total owed amounts to approximately $5,000.

Gardner said the restitution is higher than what normally is paid and that it was part of the reasons things went so smoothly. The victims from SAE knew of the plea deal, and they were willing to cooperate.

“What they ended up with under Oregon law is more money than what they would have normally received,” Gardner said. “They were very supportive. We cannot always make people happy … but in this case they were supportive of the resolution.”

Fingerprints at the scene did not connect Masoli to the crime, but Gardner said there was still enough evidence for a conviction.

“There had been some other surveillance,” Gardner said. “There had been witnesses who had come forward. I’m sure you guys all heard the 9-1-1 tape. The reason the victim is out of breath is because he’s out of breath from chasing Mr. Embry. There were many other circumstances that made it clear he was present.”

An affidavit for a search warrant was also released to the public for the first time, describing the interviews Eugene police detective Julie Smith conducted after the theft. According to the affidavit, Smith interviewed Masoli on Jan. 25, and he denied any involvement. Masoli claimed he was at Taylor’s Bar and Grille from 11:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Smith also interviewed Chip Kelly, who said Masoli told him he wasn’t at SAE. An interview with Masoli’s cousin, Taugaluia Lefiti, corroborated Masoli’s story.

But surveillance footage from Taylor’s showed that Masoli didn’t arrive at Taylor’s until 12:51 a.m. with Lefiti. Also, phone records show Masoli was on the phone with his girlfriend for 75 minutes starting at 11:27 p.m., disproving his statement that he was socializing with friends.

This ends more than a month’s speculation about whether Masoli was even involved. Gardner said it takes time in cases like this to gather all the details.

“It’s not unusual (to take a while),” Gardner said. “Sometimes when police arrive on the scene, the facts are immediately apparent and the witnesses are all there. But in some, things aren’t immediately available, and you have to root around. There are also complications on getting access to the information. But it’s not unusual to take 30 days to develop a burglary case.”

It is unknown what Masoli will do from here. Kelly’s press release says Masoli would be eligible to use a redshirt next season, but he would have to meet specific guidelines the two have set out.

James gets jail time

LaMichael James pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count physical harassment Friday morning. Lane County Circuit Court Judge Maurice Merten sentenced the Oregon running back to 10 days in jail and 24 months probation.

James was instructed to report to the Lane County Jail by 4 p.m. Friday. However, District Attorney Alex Gardner said James is “low risk” and is eligible for alternative programs. He will likely not spend more time behind bars if he’s compliant with probation.

“Using jail space for someone like Mr. James would have been a waste of space,” Gardner said.

James pleaded guilty to one count of physical harassment, and the other four counts he was originally charged on were dropped. James was originally arrested on the morning of Feb. 16.

“From very early on, clearly he was willing to accept responsibility,” Gardner said. “For us … it is very significant when someone is compliant and says, ‘I screwed up.'”

James must also not have contact with the plaintiff, Heidi Siebenlist, who is his ex-girlfriend.

In a letter submitted by her attorney, Jodee Scott, Siebenlist said she was satisfied with the plea agreement.

“My client did not want to ruin Mr. James’ life, but did want him to be held accountable for what he had done,” the letter said.

After the hearing, which was over in a matter of minutes, Gardner’s office passed out the sentencing memorandum to James’ case, which described in detail the events of the night he was arrested.

According to the memo, the Abuse Prevention Act requires immediate arrest in circumstances like James’. It required law enforcement officers to make preliminary charges before a thorough investigation. The memo and Gardner both said it would be appropriate to dismiss some of the charges after the investigation.

Gardner also addressed concerns some might have over James initially pleading not guilty then changing his plea. Gardner said in a non-guilty pleas is entered in 99.9 percent of first arraignments.

“There’s nothing significant to changing a non-guilty plea to a guilty one,” he said.

In the memorandum, James also submitted a statement on March 9 apologizing for his actions. It read:

“I apologize to Heidi both for the incident and everything she has had to go through since it happened. I accept responsibility for my actions. I am also sorry that she has been treated by some people as though she deserved blame for this. She does not. I ask people to treat her with respect. She has not done anything wrong.

“Heidi and I have been in a relationship that has meant a lot to both of us. Regardless of how things are now, I care for and respect her and ask that others do the same. During the long period we were boyfriend-girlfriend, we each grew close to one another’s families. I think we all still care for each other in that way.

“I hope to put this matter behind me now and learn from it. I have made a mistake and accept the consequences. I look forward to demonstrating to my University, to my team and to the community that I am a better man than recent events suggest.”

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