I don’t know if you caught Oliver’s hissy fit on Twitter over Branden Smith’s non-suspension, but if you didn’t, here’s the gist of it:
Whenever Mark Richt, his employers or supporters wonder why he has the reputation of being soft on discipline, they should simply look at his handling of the non-suspension of CB Brandon Smith.
Fact: Smith was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana.
Fact: Smith pled guilty, during pre-trial intervention. [Emphasis added.]
Fact: UGA’s policy is that being guilty of misdemeanor results in the student being suspended for one game (if he’s a football player, other lengths for other sports).
Fact: Mark Richt instead said, “Nah, we’ll let him play.”
Pretty cut and dried, eh? Well, maybe not so much.
Branden Smith – Does UGA policy mandate one game suspension for misdemeanor arrest? Some think so, I can’t find it.
– David Grier
The short answer is no: In the case of a misdemeanor arrest, it is normally left to the coaches’ discretion as to discipline. A felony arrest triggers automatic penalties.
The UGA drug policy, revised as of June (without any major changes), does still call for a suspension of 10 percent of a season for a first offense of the drug policy. But I’ve looked through it, and at no point do I see any automatic punishment for a drug-related arrest, regardless of the outcome of the trial. Essentially, while Smith agreed to pre-trial intervention (which technically is not an admission of guilt) [Emphasis added], UGA took into account that he passed drug tests through the court and the school. So it was determined he had in fact not committed an offense of the drug policy.
That’s a big difference, is it not? In fact, given that it’s clear, as even Oliver concedes, that there was no evidence of usage, it’s the whole story here.
So who’s right? Logic suggests that Emerson is. Besides that, take a look at some of the key language from the Alabama Code on pre-trial intervention. First, about the agreement into which the parties must enter:
If as part of the Pre-Trial Intervention Program, the offender agrees to plead guilty to a particular offense and receive a specific sentence, this agreement concerning the offense and sentence shall be approved by an appropriate circuit or district judge of the Twenty-eighth Judicial Circuit prior to admission of the offender in the Pre-Trial Intervention Program. [Emphasis added.]
Sure sounds to me as if a guilty plea isn’t automatic in PTI. And from the violations section, there’s this:
(a) If the offender violates the conditions of the Pre-Trial Intervention Program agreed to in writing by the offender and the district attorney, the district attorney may terminate the participation of the offender in the program and pursue criminal charges against the offender.
Again, if you’ve already got a guilty plea in your pocket, there’s no need to pursue criminal charges – you’re simply going to haul the offender in and move directly to the punishment stage.
Now while I am an attorney, I don’t practice criminal law and I don’t practice in Alabama. So I don’t want to say anything here with any sort of absolute authority. But I’m also not the one making a factual assertion that a guilty plea exists. The relevant law doesn’t mandate one and I’ve never heard Smith or anyone representing him state for the record that he pled guilty to a criminal charge. Maybe Oliver is privy to some inside information on the matter. If that’s the case, it seems like he should make that information public in support of his “fact”. Otherwise, somebody owes somebody an apology.