Quick 9 a.m. update: UM running back Mark Walton's attorney (Farrell & Patel) tells me this morning that it will file a complaint against the city of Miami police, alleging the police botched his case even though charges were dropped. The complaint will be filed with the city's internal affairs division, the law firm says. (See below for more.)
WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
The Mark Walton matter was resolved this week with the lifting of the UM running back’s suspension, but Mark Richt is dealing with other disciplinary issues less than two months away from his first game as UM’s coach.
• Ace Herald correspondent Peter Ariz and I have learned that freshmen receiver Sam Bruce is facing a potential one- or two-game suspension for brandishing a gun in a photo that resulted in Bruce withdrawing from St. Thomas Aquinas in February, shortly after signing his letter of intent with UM.
Bruce made the photo of himself with the weapon because of a dispute with a former Aquinas male student, a dispute centered around Bruce’s ex-girlfriend. A source said the photo ended up in the hands of the former student, who then called police and Aquinas. No charges were ever filed.
It’s always possible Richt could change his mind and decide not to suspend Bruce if his behavior is exemplary in August; neither I nor Peter nor anyone has a crystal ball and can predict if a coach will have a change of heart.
But a UM source with direct knowledge said Tuesday the university’s full intention at this point is to be suspend Bruce for two games to start the season because there is an expectation of how Hurricanes players should represent themselves and that there should be consequences for their actions.
Bruce, rated by Rivals.com as the seventh best receiver and 47th best player overall in the 2016 class, enrolled at UM in late June and is expected to receive playing time this season, potentially as a returner as well as a slot receiver.
• Defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad, arguably UM’s best defensive player, remains under scrutiny as UM continues to investigate whether at least four football players violated NCAA rules when they struck deals with a local car agency. As of Tuesday, Muhammad had not been cleared and it was undetermined if he would face discipline.
A source said UM is not expected to bring back linebacker Juwon Young, who was suspended indefinitely last month both for his involvement and for not being forthcoming with UM officials. UM also has investigated whether linebacker Jermaine Grace was involved.
UM’s investigation has focused on whether the players received discounted or heavily discounted luxury cars in exchange for some future stake in their careers.
Three sources told Peter and me that the dealership in question is South Beach Exotic Rentals.
Asked this week if his dealership had rented cars to any UM athletes, the company’s owner, Juan Caballero, said by phone: “I’m not aware of any of that. Maybe lower levels of the company have.”
Asked if he has ever given UM players free cars to drive, he said: “We’re not giving anything for free. Jay Z paid when he rented a car. Justin Bieber paid.”
Caballero said “no [UM] player is getting any sort of special treatment. I couldn't name one person on that team.”
A UM player said eyebrows were raised when Young drove to practice last season in an expensive car. According to a UM source, a former girlfriend informed UM about Young’s involvement.
ACC teams typically bring one offensive player and one defensive player to the conference’s media day, next week in Charlotte. But UM, cognizant of the car controversy, is taking punter Justin Vogel (along with quarterback Brad Kaaya) instead of Muhammad or Grace.
It's important to again note that the NCAA is not investigating UM. If Miami finds wrongdoing, it will report what it discovered to the NCAA and get the NCAA's blessing on Miami's suggested discipline for student athletes who committed violations.
• Walton, reinstated from suspension after a DUI charge against him was dropped, is not expected to be held out of any games. A day after Walton’s attorney accused the police of botching the matter, city of Miami police chief Rodolfo Llanes defended his department’s handling of the case.
“Mr. Walton was taken into custody based upon probable cause, which is the legal standard required to effect an arrest,” Llanes said today in a statement emailed to several media outlets, including The Herald. “Mr. Walton’s physical contact with the Miami Police Department began with visual observations of possible impaired driving. Further investigation revealed he was driving with a suspended license.
“Mr. Walton’s eventual blood alcohol level was below the .08 threshold, however it should be noted that Mr. Walton is not of age to purchase or consume alcoholic beverages. The declination to file criminal charges as a function of prosecutorial discretion should not be used to presume wrongdoing on the part of the Miami Police Department or any of its officers. Our investigation revealed there was no evidence of any prior relationship or association.”
Walton’s attorney, Joey McCall, told WINZ’s Andy Slater this week: "We learned with our own investigation that at least two City of Miami officers, through the alleged victim, lured Mark over to a house, were hidden when he got there, and then rushed him with guns drawn. One officer came from inside the house and the other officer came from around the side of the house.
“Mark was literally terrified and as a result cooperated with whatever he was made to do. All he could think about was trying to stay alive."
So, why, Slater asked, were there cops at her house waiting for Walton as McCall described?
"We learned from other officers within the City of Miami police department that the arresting officers, among others, were essentially conducting a warrantless sting operation that they were not assigned to do and weren't asked to participate in," McCall told Slater. "Based on additional information we received, the alleged victim and at least one of the arresting officers have a personal relationship of some kind and knew each other prior to April 23."
Though the Heat has 15 players with fully or partially guaranteed contracts, Miami remains in conversations with point guard Beno Udrih, according to his agent. The Heat has left open the possibility of his return at the minimum, but he hasn’t decided what to do.
• According to agent Joel Bell, center Willie Reed accepted a two-year deal at the minimum from the Heat, instead of an offer for more elsewhere, because “he enjoyed his time with the Heat in Summer League last year and remembers how great the organization is and the coaches are. He said [assistant coach] Juwan Howard showed him a couple things that helped him and he remembered that.”
Howard continues to impress people; he has been very helpful in the development of Hassan Whiteside.
By the way, Bell said that the 26-year-old Reed, who was 6-9 in college at St. Louis, measured in at 6-11 1/2 this week.
• Please click here for a lot of interesting things that Udonis Haslem had to say today, about Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Kevin Durant and others.
• Despite the fear that Ndamukong Suh’s contract (which was restructured) would be an albatross on Miami’s cap, the Dolphins will be in pretty good shape next offseason.
If the cap rises from $155 million to $160 million, the Dolphins would have $16 million in space, plus a large chunk of 2016 carryover space ($17 million, according to the players’ union) and the ability to clear out a lot more by cutting or restructuring Branden Albert ($10.6 million cap hit in 2017), Mario Williams ($10.5 million), Byron Maxwell ($8.5 million), Earl Mitchell ($4.5 million) and Isa Abdul-Quddus ($5 million), among others. They also could restructure Mike Pouncey ($8.9 million).
• Please click here for more Dolphins nuggets from a few hours ago, on Billy Turner, the Miko Grimes Anti-Semitic comment fallout and Wes Welker.
• The Marlins are one of only three teams that haven’t signed their first-round pick (Alabama prep lefty Braxton Garrett) and the MLB deadline for that is Friday. The Marlins have said they are optimistic they will strike a deal with Garrett’s agent, Scott Boras. With the slotting system for picks, it's not possible for a player to hold out for an obscene sum of money, as they once could.
• The Marlins (with limited available trade assets) continue efforts to acquire a starting pitcher from a group include Tampa’s Jake Odorizzi, San Diego’s Drew Pomeranz and potentially Oakland’s Rich Hill, among others.
If they can’t, their best hope for a competent fifth starter might be Jarred Cosart, who has allowed four runs in eight innings over two starts in Single A after missing a month with an oblique injury.
Justin Nicolino, Jose Urena (1-2, 3.63 in nine minor league starts) and Jeremy Guthrie are the other internal options, but Guthrie hasn't been impressive at Triple A (6-5, 7.08 ERA). And Nicolino remains erratic.