GAINESVILLE -- In an examination of 10 major programs, an ESPN Outside The Lines investigation found that Florida football and men’s basketball athletes had the most players named in criminal incidents from 2009-14.
ESPN investigated 10 schools -- UF, Florida State, Auburn, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Oregon State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Missouri and Wisconsin -- using public records, determining:
"Overall, the Outside the Lines investigation found that what occurs between high-profile college athletes and law enforcement is not as simple as the commonly held perception that police and prosecutors simply show preferential treatment, though that does occur. Rather, the examination of more than 2,000 documents shows that athletes from the 10 schools mainly benefited from the confluence of factors that can be reality at major sports programs: the near-immediate access to high-profile attorneys, the intimidation that is felt by witnesses who accuse athletes, and the higher bar some criminal justice officials feel needs to be met in high-profile cases."
The Gators had 80 athletes named in connection to more than a 100 crimes -- roughly 24 percent of the combined rosters -- during the six-year span of former coaches Urban Meyer, Will Muschamp and Billy Donovan.
UF also had the most repeat offenders, but its athletes received, per the report, lenient treatment compared to the average college student in Gainesville.
According to the complimentary report, 56 percent of cases involving UF players were either not prosecuted or dropped -- this compared to 28 percent for “a comparison set of cases involving college-age males in Gainesville” during the same six-year span.
The report also examined the role of “expert legal help," with renowned Gainesville attorney Huntley Johnson mentioned several times.
"Hernandez's attorney was a man named Huntley Johnson, a graduate of Florida's law school, donor to its athletic fund, and counsel to so many Florida athletes that a local newspaper even dubbed him the Gators' real MVP.
When Outside the Lines first presented Ben Tobias, spokesman for the Gainesville Police Department, with data showing athletes were less likely to be prosecuted than non-athletes, Tobias said the main reason was likely the athletes' unique access to legal counsel, which Outside the Lines found was a factor at such other schools as Florida State, Missouri and Oklahoma State.
"Sometimes we joke that [Huntley Johnson's] got a better communication system than 911," Tobias said."
ESPN’s report did not attach any individual public records, but the OTL investigation did single out former UF players Chris Rainey, Ronald Powell, Janoris Jenkins and Aaron Hernandez.
The main report's lede was:
"As a University of Florida running back, Chris Rainey was named a suspect in five crimes in Gainesville. He faced charges once.
Rainey's experience as a star athlete accused of criminal activity -- stalking, fighting, injuring someone with fireworks -- but ending up with a mostly clean record is not uncommon: From 2009 to 2014, male basketball and football players at the University of Florida and Florida State University avoided criminal charges or prosecution on average two-thirds of the time when named as suspects in police documents, a result far exceeding that of non-athlete males in the same age range, an Outside the Lines investigation has found."
In all, ESPN conducted a very thorough investigation, but some additional background (i.e. the physical documents and breakdown of each incident) would've provided some necessary context.
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