I think it's fair to say that the news on Jimmy Johns hit us all like a freight train, myself included. Personally, I could barely even believe what I was reading when I first saw the news posted here on RBR. I think we all new that Johns had some character concerns, and those who follow the Tide closely are sure to know that he spent time in the doghouse of both Shula and Saban, but no one would have ever predicted anything like this. It's hard to even know where to start on the subject, but we'll start with the facts of the situation and try to work our way from there.
According to Captain Jeff Snyder, commander of the Alabama Narcotics Task Force, the investigation into Johns began a few months back, though he never gave an exact date. The task force had apparently received information from several different sources that Johns was involved in the distribution of cocaine, and this put the wheels in motion. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, undercover officers began attempting to purchase drugs from Johns, and were successfully able to do so on five different occasions. Two sales occurred at Johns' residence, two sales occurred on the campus of the University of Alabama, and one sale occurred via a car-to-car transaction at an undisclosed location.
Yesterday, Johns had been participating in the off-season S&C program at the UA Athletic Complex, and once he finished his workout he headed home. On the way home, Johns stopped to get gasoline at a gas station near his apartment, and it was there that officers made the arrest. He accompanied the officers back to his apartment where they executed a search warrant, and it was there that they found more cocaine and eight or nine ecstasy pills. After the arrest, Johns was charged with five counts of distribution of a controlled substance, and one count of possession of a controlled substance. Johns is currently being held in the Tuscaloosa County Jail on $120,000 bond.
According to Snyder, Johns had been selling cocaine mainly to University of Alabama students.Moreover, Snyder expressed surprise at how quickly they were able to buy cocaine from Johns, and also expressed surprise that they did not find out that Johns had been selling cocaine at an earlier date. Snyder also stated that Johns was not reluctant to sell drugs to new customers.
However, Snyder also did say that he went out of his way to ensure that his Alabama teammates did not find out about his illicit activities. To date in the investigation, there is no evidence whatsoever that any other Alabama football player had any explicit knowledge of Johns' activities, much less were involved in those activities. According to Snyder, Johns' source was apparently someone outside the UA community.
Those are the facts as we know them to date. But what does all of it mean?
For Johns, it means very bad things. The distribution of a controlled substance is a very serious charge, and at this point it seems like a foregone conclusion that he will spend many, many years in prison. Yes I am aware that you are innocent until proven guilty, but that's pretty much a meaningless concept when you sell illegal street drugs on five different occasions to undercover police officers. As sad as it is to say, Johns will probably be doing fairly well if he sees the light of day again before he turns 30. It's just a terrible situation for him, and the consequences will be unimaginable.
And things for him may get much worse. At the moment all of these charges are state charges, but they could very easily turn into federal charges, where the punishment would be much tougher and where there would be no chance of plea bargaining. In this day and age, even the slightest interstate contact -- such as, for example, a phone call placed by Johns to a contact in Mississippi regarding the distribution of cocaine -- could easily be enough to invoke federal jurisdiction. I imagine that if the Feds want to get in on this case, they can easily do it. And, making matters even worse, the sale of drugs in a school zone will only bring tougher punishment. Again, things for him may very well get much worse. For better or for worse, we do live in a society today where it is relatively common to see drug distributors get even longer prison sentences than murderers.
Coach Saban acted quickly once the news broke. He was gone on vacation but he quickly dismissed Johns from the football team. It was obviously the right move by our beloved Nicktator, but it was also a pointless one. The situation with Jimmy Johns is completely above and beyond the control of a mere football coach, regardless of how well-known and highly-regarded that football coach may be. It wouldn't have mattered if Saban had came out in full support of Johns and talking about how he would be starting against Clemson... that would not have changed the harsh reality that Johns faces by one iota. Saban's dismissal of Johns was a needed gesture, but also an ultimately meaningless one. Again, multiple accounts of distribution of a controlled substance far surpass the realm of a mere football coach.
On the football field, the loss of Johns is likely a relatively small loss, and perhaps not even a loss at all. A couple of weeks ago I stated in the first RBR chat that I expected Johns to start this year against Clemson, but his absence probably doesn't change anything in terms of production. With Johns gone, the starting job will now just pass on, likely, to either Donta' Hightower or Jerrell Harris. Bottom line, we'll replace a highly talented but wholly inexperienced linebacker with yet another highly talented but wholly inexperienced linebacker. And it may actually help us. I don't know if I would go as far as to say that Johns was a cancer, but he clearly did have some character problems, and any reduction in the overall number of character cases that we have is a positive for the program as a whole.
But it seems quite shrill to talk about football in a time like this. Football is a wonderful game, but at the end of the day it is just a game, and you should never lose sight of the fact that there are real people lying underneath those helmets and pads. Considering that this young man may have lost his freedom until the time his hair starts to turn gray, I think we should just leave the football talk at that. Regardless of the impact on our 2008 season, it's just a game, and in the big picture it really does not matter one way or the other.
And call me a homer if you want, but I really don't think Johns is a bad kid. He has never done anything violent, and to my knowledge -- despite a suspension for not attending class -- he actually kept his academics in order as well. Moreover, there has been no evidence whatsoever to state that he was actually a drug user, and in all honesty he probably wasn't. As someone pointed out in the comments of the earlier Johns thread, dealers actually tend to stay away from consumption because it cuts into profit margins. Usually drug dealers aren't in it for the drugs, they are in it for the money -- the drugs themselves are generally nothing more than a way to get the money. Again, call me a homer if you wish, but I figure that Johns was nothing more than a dumb kid who was attracted to the big money that seemingly comes so easy in the drug trade. It's hard to imagine how he could have been so naive to think he would not get caught, considering how high-profile of a figure he was, but apparently he was. At the end of the day it's all just hard to believe, it's like one bad dream.
To close, I'll say this: I still support Jimmy. At one time we all expected him to be a legend at Alabama, and obviously that did not work out. He made some terrible decisions, and he will pay for them in ways we cannot possibly imagine. With all of the problems that he has right now, he doesn't need me or anyone else making matters worse by spewing pointless vitriol. He was a naive kid who made an unbelievably dumb mistake and nothing more, let's just leave it at that. A lot of people will certainly criticize him and further demean him, but you won't hear it from me. I am truly saddened that it ever came to this, for Jimmy or anyone else who has faced his plight, and I sincerely hope he can get his life back together. For all of his faults and all of his mistakes, I still support Jimmy.