B-Ballers in District Court
Nine current and former members of the University of Mary Washington men’s basketball team appeared alongside three additional students in Fredericksburg District Court Tuesday, Oct. 30 for 30 alcohol-related charges and one count of obstruction of justice.
The 12 students were brought to court by 30 summonses given for numerous counts of underage possession of alcohol as well as counts of providing alcohol to an underage person.
According to the official Virginia Uniform Summonses, the Oct. 30 cases were ruled as Nolle Prosequi, meaning the charges have not been dismissed on the Virginia Commonwealth’s request, but also are not being further prosecuted.
According to Fredericksburg Police Department Public Information Officer Natalia Bledsoe, four Fredericksburg police officers responded to a call around 10 p.m. about an Idlewild house party, where the attendees were not only allegedly loud but also exposing themselves to the neighbors through the house’s back windows.
Also according to Bledsoe, when officers saw a keg and numerous people drinking through the opened door, they asked current players Matthew Hale and Eric Pearson to return to the door with their IDs. When neither Hale nor Pearson returned to the door after nearly five minutes, the police officers entered the home themselves.
Bledsoe said that once inside, the officers found one beer keg registered to Michael Lee, who they then charged with 10 counts of providing alcohol to an underage person.
“I don’t know if we’re allowed to talk about it,” said Lee. “I didn’t know anybody even knew about it.”
Pearson was also charged with 10 counts of providing alcohol to an underage person for the same 10 party attendees that Lee was charged for but declined to comment.
“Prior to charging these people, they all admitted to consuming alcohol and were all offered a PBT if they said they had not been drinking,” said Bledsoe, reading directly from official Fredericksburg police records.
Only one student agreed to take the PBT, or Preliminary Breath Test, and registered at a 0.0, proving he had not consumed any alcohol.
Others were issued the court summons for the Oct. 30 court date.
Though nearly all attendees were either players in previous semesters or are currently on the team’s roster, the UMW men’s basketball coach, Rod Wood, said that all students involved cannot be considered UMW basketball players due to the timing of the incident.
“None of those kids were on the basketball team,” said Wood. “The thing about this is that the summons date was prior to Oct. 15, which is when our first meeting was, so this is prior to a basketball team even being picked. So it was really a group of people who had gotten together like anybody else on campus. There was no basketball players involved because we hadn’t had our first practice.”
According to the official Virginia Uniform Summonses, Nolle Prosequi does not serve as an acquittal and means that the charges themselves have not been dropped or dismissed. According to the “Encyclopedia Britannica,” Nolle Prosequi does not bar subsequent prosecution for the same case in which it was invoked at the prosecutor’s discretion.
Commonwealth attorney Charles Sharp was unavailable for comment as to why he decided not to continue the prosecution of the cases.
“Unless anyone has been proven guilty, no consequences can be applied or even considered,” said Director of Athletics Ed Hegmann. “But if the case is re-opened and they are found guilty for possession of alcohol,
I can promise that there will be consequences.”
Wood says that despite the incident and the Nolle Prosequi ruling of the cases, this year’s basketball season will not be affected.
“I don’t know why it would have any affect on the season,” said Wood. “I mean, they weren’t members of a team and they weren’t guilty of anything, except maybe poor judgment, which I’ve already discussed with them.”