Let me start with a full disclosure. The Bleacher Report has afforded me opportunities normally reserved for professional journalists, of which I am not. I have written; I have been published (both on-line and print media); I have been granted access to events and people I otherwise would not have, but I am a construction contractor and businessman by trade. Writing and LSU Football are simple pleasures for me.
So when I say what I am about to say, it is with no pride, pleasure or particular concern for what might happen in the win/loss column of the team that I love.
The LSU Tigers are seemingly turning their back on one (two) of their own and it is beyond deplorable.
Jordan Jefferson and Josh Johns were suspended by the Tigers' Head Coach Les Miles on August 26, 2011 after being arrested by the Baton Rouge Police Department on second Degree Battery charges that were the result of a bar fight that the two young men and other LSU Football players were allegedly involved in during the wee hours of August 19, 2011.
Coach Miles really had no choice in making the decision to suspend Jefferson and Johns once the arrests were made. One could argue that he really has no choice in continuing to enforce those suspensions as the prosecution is on-going.
Should Jefferson/Johns be Presumed Innocent?
Therein lies the problem. As more information has been revealed, not only about the incident but about the victim's diminishing credibility, it has become increasingly questionable as to whether this case will ever go to trial.
Unfortunately however, the wheels of justice turn slowly, while the blur of the 2011 college football season—Mr. Jefferson's Senior and final campaign—is in high speed and will not wait for old lady liberty to balance her scale.
While the charges are serious, the evidence the BRPD reportedly based the charges on is anything but.
First, the initial police report indicates that the self-proclaimed victim, Andrew Lowery, and a female friend of his, (who was later called a third-party witness) Victoria Long, witnessed Jefferson kick Lowery in the face and both identified Josh Johns, a third-string defensive back, as having been involved along with other LSU Football players that were recognizable, but not known to them.
Lowery and Long claimed that Lowery, who was later identified as "a Marine" despite not being in uniform or on any type of official business, and who also later claimed that he arrived at the bar to pick up a friend, rushed into the mob beating of a man unknown to them to save the man from this mob.
Should Jefferson/Johns Be Reinstated?
Long claimed that this man was dragged from his vehicle when he "yelled" for another vehicle to get out of his way.
She went on to say that this man did claim to have a gun, and threatened the crowd with it.
She was contacted later—at 6:10am—by the responding officer and was able to provide specific information as to Mr. Lowery's condition and whereabouts.
Some serious questions about this account have come to light. For example, Lowery lied about his whereabouts prior to the start of the fight. Video obtained by the Associated Press from Shady's lounge shows Lowery being ejected from the bar just seconds prior to the altercation.
Also, Shady’s General Manager John Peak told the Associated Press, "What we do know is that Lowery threw the first punch, that's one thing we do know, and we will attest to, and he had been kicked out of the bar.”
In fact, Lowery is seen on the video accosting a woman who was able to obtain a restraining order, claiming that this incident was the latest in a string of "stalking" incidents that had occurred over several weeks leading up to that night.
Attorneys for Jefferson have obtained sworn statements from witnesses claiming that Lowery punched another man who was dancing with the alleged stalking victim, along with others who claim Jefferson was not involved in the altercation at all.
Adding to the diminishing credibility of Mr. Lowery is the fact that he has continued to lie to the police in other matters.
After swinging his arm into the path of a moving vehicle on Highland Road, while hitchhiking at 5:00am, on September 4th—after admitting to having had several beers and a Lortab, a combination of acetaminophen and hydrocodone—he lied to police that the vehicle swerved into him as he was walking off to the side of the road.
His attorney, Michael P. Bienvenu—the same man representing him and the other alleged victims from the Shady's incident—says that this encounter (and his dishonesty) with state troopers has no bearing on the alleged attack at the bar in Tiger Town.
Bienvenu might be right about that from a legal perspective, but it certainly has a bearing on this young man's credibility and frankly that is basically all that is keeping Jordan Jefferson and Josh John's from joining their teammates.
Neither Jordan Jefferson nor Josh Johns have had any prior disciplinary action from LSU, nor have they previously been charged with any crimes or other nefarious activity.
Lowery on the other hand has a criminal record in Florida, a restraining order in Baton Rouge and not less than ten days ago admitted to lying to police during an investigation.
At this point the legal case has to run its course, but LSU and Les Miles should take the extenuating circumstances of the known facts into account.
Jordan Jefferson has nowhere to go to get his career back. Many fans and some experts feel that LSU is better off under the guidance of fellow senior QB Jarrett Lee, who has played well and led the Tigers to a 2-0 start in his absence, but that is missing the point.
Jefferson may very well be 2-0 had he not been kicked off the team (or he could have lost the job by now), and Johns wasn't expected to play this year anyway, but again, that misses the point.
Jefferson and Johns are sidelined and essentially being presumed guilty until proven innocent. It seems more and more likely that the two will be proven innocent, and that is the point.
In the rush to make sure LSU football players didn't receive an undue pass for bad behavior, it appears increasingly likely that the BRPD did exactly the opposite: pressed undue charges because they are LSU Football players.
That is not the American way, and it is not the way a TEAM should treat two of their own.
Jarrett Lee hasn't done anything to lose the job at this point, so Jefferson may not ever start again, but for him to be sitting at home shoeless and waiting for lady justice to weigh her scale is not fair, and it is un-American.
So this LSU fan, who happens to be a big fan of the Mad Hatter as well, is calling on Les Miles to make one of his patented "risky but right" fourth down with the game on the line calls.
Reinstate Jefferson and Johns now.
As always, there will be critics, and he will be called crazy or accused of trying to win at all costs, but when Jefferson and Johns are cleared the reward will be immeasurable.
Miles would not only be the best coach in team history, he'd be the guy that stood up for his players when they were being wrongfully prosecuted despite the risk to his own reputation.
How would that play on the recruiting trail?
Make the call Coach, Geaux Tigers!