Robert and Denzel Nkemdiche Sued for $2 Million for Assault

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2014

USA Today

Updates from Tuesday, Mar. 18

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze spoke about Denzel Nkemdiche's status with the team following a YouTube showing the player shouting profanities at a group of people (via Parish Alford of the Daily Journal):

Freeze said the video will be “considered” in the big picture of how Nkemdiche progresses in his efforts to regain his status with the team.

“I’m not happy with him, not proud of it, hope he’s not. It’s definitely not what we want to be about and the way you want to handle (a situation) regardless of what initiated it or caused it,” Freeze said. “There’s a way to handle adversity and controversy, and it’s certainly not that, and that’s been made clear to him.”

Updates from Monday, Mar. 10

Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger has the latest on the legal issues surrounding the Nkemdiche brothers:

Ole Miss’ Denzel and Robert Nkemdiche have denied all allegations made against them in a $2 million civil suit.

In addition, the Nkemdiches filed a counter-claim against plaintiff Matthew Baird. The two are seeking an unspecified amount in damages for what they say are “untrue and false statements” in Baird’s original suit. An answer to that suit and a counter-claim was filed Thursday in Lafayette County Circuit Court.

Baird filed his claim on Feb. 14, alleging that the Nkemdiche brothers as well as five unnamed individuals beat him while he was unconscious outside of the Kappa Alpha fraternity house on Feb. 17, 2013. Baird alleges that Denzel Nkemdiche first attacked him, then Robert Nkemdiche and the others stomped on his head.

Updates from Tuesday, Mar. 4

The Daily Journal's Parriss Alford reports on a major decision that has been made regarding Denzel Nkemdiche:

Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger provides a comment from head coach Hugh Freeze:

Updates from Thursday, Feb. 20

Hugh Kellenberber of ClarionLedger.com provides a statement from Ole Miss University Police Captain Michael Harmon:

What happened on Feb. 17, 2013, at Kappa Alpha is now the subject of a $2 million civil suit against arguably Ole Miss’ most popular football players, Denzel and Robert Nkemdiche. But the criminal investigation ended quickly after the incident, according to university police.

“A person was hit but he didn’t know who hit him,” UPD Captain Michael Harmon said, referring to the plaintiff civil suit, Matthew Baird.

A partial copy of the incident report is heavily redacted but lists Denzel and Bryan Nkemdiche (the oldest brother), along with basketball star Marshall Henderson, quarterback Bo Wallace and cornerback David Kamara. It does not, however, specify why the last three are included and only says that a witness saw the Nkemdiche brothers “and some other football players” on the scene. If Robert Nkemdiche’s name is included, it was blacked out.

Original Text

Recently suspended Ole Miss linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche and his brother Robert Nkemdiche, a defensive end for the Rebels, have been named as two of seven defendants in a $2 million civil suit that claims the brothers physically assaulted a student at a fraternity party last year.    

In the suit, filed just last Friday, Matthew Baird claims to have been knocked unconscious and beaten and stomped by multiple members of the Ole Miss football team, per records obtained by Clay Travis of Fox SportsDenzel Nkemdiche and Robert Nkemdiche are the only two cited by name in the lawsuit. While Baird claims five other football players were included in the assault, they are labeled "John Does 1-5" in current records.

According to Travis, Baird had no prior relationship with either Nkemdiche brother and the attack was without provocation. The claims state that Baird was present with his girlfriend and a friend at a fraternity party on Feb. 17, 2013, when a fight broke out, leading to a dispersal of the party.

Dave Martin/Associated Press

As Baird was attempting to leave, Denzel Nkemdiche began spouting expletives and punched him in the back of the head, knocking him unconscious. Robert Nkemdiche and the unnamed plaintiffs then began profusely stomping and beating the already-unconscious plaintiff. Baird's friend Ford Everett was later added to the fracas when he attempted to save Baird by covering him up.

Baird suffered multiple head injuries and was taken to a local hospital. While police investigated the case after arriving on the scene, no arrests were made. Baird is seeking $2 million in damages for "battery, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress," per Travis.

This is only the latest run-in with misconduct for Denzel Nkemdiche, who was suspended Monday after an arrest for disturbing the peace and disorderly conduct. He was celebrating his 21st birthday Saturday. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze told Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion Ledger Nkemdiche and Serderius Bryant, who was also arrested, would be suspended “until we know more,” about what happened.

As for the civil suit, Ole Miss is seemingly standing by its players. No punishment for Robert Nkemdiche has been announced, and in a statement released to Travis, the university indicated police found the brothers were not at fault:

When this alleged incident occurred, the proper authorities investigated the matter and could find no evidence of wrong-doing related to Denzel and Robert Nkemdiche or any other members of our football program. This is a personal matter for them and we will support Denzel and Robert while they defend themselves in this civil case.

Baird's suit claims the football players left the party before authorities arrived, which would ostensibly help explain why charges were not filed.

Denzel Nkemdiche, a junior, made 35 total tackles and two tackles for loss in 2013. He was expected to compete for a starting job this coming season, though that is pending how long he is suspended. 

Butch Dill/Associated Press

Robert Nkemdiche was arguably the best high school football player in the Class of 2013 and a major coup for Freeze when he signed. He recorded 34 total tackles and two sacks in his freshman campaign, appearing in 11 games while showing signs of his promise.

The Rebels, who went 8-5 last season, are expected to feature Robert Nkemdiche heavily in their defensive game plan for 2014. Because it is a civil matter, odds are this case will not affect his standing with the team. Many schools have instantaneous suspensions built in for criminal cases, but civil suits are more of a case-by-case scenario.

With months before now and Ole Miss' season-opening game against Boise State in August, there is plenty of time for the suit to get sorted out.

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