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Two USF football players arrested

WR Charlie Jackson, NT Greg Walls may be disciplined for alleged misdemeanors.

By SHARON GINN and SUSAN THURSTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 4, 2000


TAMPA -- Two South Florida football players, wrapping up a post-game victory celebration early Sunday at a fast food restaurant, were arrested on misdemeanor charges and could face team disciplinary action.

Senior Charlie Jackson, who on Saturday became USF's all-time leading receiver, was charged with trespassing after warning and possession of marijuana -- an allegation he vehemently denies. Sophomore nose tackle Greg Walls protested Jackson's arrest and was charged with disorderly conduct. They were cited, given a court date and released without being booked.

Athletic director Paul Griffin and coach Jim Leavitt are waiting for the facts to play out, including the results of a voluntary drug test performed on Jackson, before deciding whether the two will play Saturday at Kentucky. Until then, Jackson and Walls can practice.

"They made it seem as if they found the sack on me, and that wasn't true," Jackson said.

A decision on his status is expected by Thursday at the latest, Griffin said, and earlier for Walls. With misdemeanor charges, the athletic department "handles those internally, evaluating the full scope of individuals' record and behavior here," Griffin said.

Jackson and former USF linebacker Cedric Tate were charged with possession of marijuana and trespassing after being warned. The incident took place at about 4:15 at McDonald's, 920 E Fowler Ave. An off-duty deputy hired by the restaurant ordered a crowd of 300 to 400 people to leave the parking lot, but many refused, sheriff's officials said.

The deputy called for backup and took Tate, 23, and Jackson, 22, into custody. Based on their suspicious behavior, deputies searched them and found marijuana, said sheriff's spokesman Rod Reder. Walls, 20, became upset about their arrests and was arrested for interfering with deputies, Reder said. No one else was charged.

Walls declined to comment, but Jackson, eager to speak with reporters Sunday, disputed Reder's version of events.

Jackson and Walls were not out together Saturday night, but it is not unusual for USF students and late night partyers to gather at the restaurant in the early morning hours, Jackson said. He added he was with several other teammates celebrating the Bulls' 40-0 season-opening victory against Jacksonville State. He said his group was involved in a loud argument and he was trying to get his friends to leave.

"There were words exchanged, but everybody calmed down," he said. "We tried to clear everything up. They (police) said I was not helping the problem. That's what it was. They handcuffed me. Put me in the backseat. I had no marijuana or nothing on me.

"Greg exploded when they handcuffed me. ... Greg really reacted on my part."

He said the marijuana was found after he and Tate had been arrested on trespassing charges, searched and placed in handcuffs in a squad car. An officer found the small packet in the car and asked them whose it was, Jackson said. When neither claimed it, they both were charged with possession.

Jackson did not have to submit to a drug test, Griffin said. But Jackson said he readily agreed to two, one Sunday and one Tuesday.

"I have to fight" the charges, Jackson said. "Possession of marijuana cannot go on my record. I hope this doesn't sacrifice my senior season. The drug test I think will help."

Griffin did not speculate on possible penalties to the players, but added, "We consider any confrontation with an officer of the law serious, but we also have very clear policies on illicit drugs. It is far different."

The arrests capped a rough stretch for USF, which was sued Aug. 24 for alleged racial discrimination in its women's basketball program. Sunday's incident wasn't the first involving local football players at the popular late-night hangout. In July 1998, Florida State wide receiver Peter Warrick was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after refusing to leave and trying to run away from deputies.

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