So, it's the day after Prius-gate or Pellet-palooza or whatever we end up calling the idiocy that went down in the Pilot gas station in Knoxville early Wednesday morning.
As you are probably aware, Janzen Jackson was released on his own recognizance and Mike Edwards was released on bond yesterday. Nu'Keese Richardson remains in jail. This is the morning summary of events over at Rocky Top Talk...
[Jackson's] attorney says he hopes to prove Jackson's innocence of the whole thing in just a couple of days. As unlikely as this sounded yesterday morning, it could have something to do with reports that Jackson was inside the store at the time the other two were attempting to rob the victims and with reports that at least one of the people involved did not possess marijuana.
So where do we go from here? Well, there are still a ton of cheap jokes to be made at the Volunteer's expense but it's worth taking a moment to step back and look at what the actual situation concerning this matter consists of before letting ourselves slip into the warm and comforting embrace of hyperbole.
Richard Pittman over at And The Valley Shook happens to be a criminal defense attorney in his spare time and he has a very salient point about "criminal activity" we should keep in mind.
The vast majority of criminals and other people who need defense attorneys are not malicious thugs. Most of them are just stupid, or temporarily stupid, and mean no actual harm to anyone. You don't necessarily want to be good buddies with most of them, unless you like having lots of drama in your life, but for the most part the people who occupy our jails and prisons are better described a "ignorant" than "mean".
He goes on to surmise that the incident in the gas station parking lot seems to be more of a childish prank than an outright criminal offense. Given the ludicrous details of the event, that seems pretty much on the mark.
If so, then the Tennessee coaching staff and administration has to tread very carefully in how they proceed in terms of punishment. While they have to do something prior to the game against Ole Miss on Saturday, the final decision may take a little longer to be handed down. Referring again to RTT:
Lane Kiffin said yesterday that he'll deal with all three situations but only after they have gathered all of the pertinent information, which, as much as some fans and most rivals think suggests a frantic search for loopholes, is the most prudent and fair move.
And, as much as I despise the guy, this is clearly the right move. Handing down the inncorrect punishment now instead of the proper one at a later date is infinitely worse than exculpiating the offenders. We would certainly ask this if the situation involved our players.
So when should we expect them to do anything?
Two elements of the case are likely to have a vast effect on what is decided concerning these players fate. And both of them will remain pretty much outside the public eye until finally decided. The first and most important is what prosecutors decide (or don't decide) to formally charge these guys with.
When you read stories on the interweb today that insist the trio have been charged with armed robbery keep in mind that this is wrong. Prosecutors charge people with crime, not cops. And it's attempted armed robbery, not armed robbery.
To dip our toe in the legal point here (and I welcome any insight to be offered by your practicing attorneys out there), these players have been arrested by police on suspicion of attempted armed robbery. But cops only need probable cause to do that - that is, enough evidence to believe a crime has be committed.
Prosecutors, on the other hand, have to have a heck of a lot more than that to make a case. And that's the threshold they will need to meet in order to actually charge these guys with anything. As a quick viewing of any Law & Order episode would inform you, they have to have enough evidence of criminal activity to win in court in front of a jury or, as the law says, "beyond a reasonable doubt."
Ask yourself if you seriously think a Tennessee jury trial would put these guys in jail for a decade or so given the circumstances we know so far.
So, in lieu of that, what is likely to be the deciding factor are the ancillary charges? First, by using a pellet gun they avoid any nasty handgun charges that would have really landed them in hot water. But there is the whole drug angle. With the drugs found in the car and on the person of the woman involved that raises some serious questions in terms of the players culpability.
Kiffin and company certainly have no obligation to abide by the decisions of the legal system when making their decisions in terms of these players fate with the program. But these decisions by the legal system are likely to be the most important single factors in whatever they decision they choose to make. So we have to wait the obligatory three days for that.
The players have already done an act of galactic stupidity and the situation is now out of their hands. It remains to be seen if the UT coach will match that or not. I point all the above not to make apologies for or defend Kiffin but to make it clear what we are going to judge his forthcoming decision on. And while we speculate on the possible punishments and meaning of all this we should certainly keep in mind it is all just that - speculation.
UPDATE 12:31 PM The three players will not suit up for the Ole Miss game this Saturday, according to a UT spokesperson.