Should Sooners take Chaisson?
Watching the Las Vegas court proceedings concerning OU recruit Justin Chaisson on Wednesday, I had the same feeling I had a year ago when the Sooners were still saying they would take Josh Jarboe: I’m glad it’s Bob Stoops’ responsibility and not mine.
Chaisson pleaded no contest Wednesday to four gross misdemeanors in Clark County, Nevada: two counts of false imprisonment, one count of malicious destruction of private property and one count of conspiracy to commit coercion and/or false imprisonment. Chaisson was charged with forcing his ex-girlfriend into a vehicle, driving her into the desert, placing a screwdriver against her neck and threatening to kill her.
Chaisson originally was charged with felonies, but those charges were reduced in a plea agreement, much like Jarboe a year ago, after he brought a gun onto school grounds. Bob Stoops gambled on Jarboe, then dismissed him when Jarboe made an amateur video, rapping about killing people.
There certainly is no reason to believe Chaisson received special treatment from Vegas authorities; pleas like this are made all the time, all over the country. But the court proceedings were unsettling, if for no other reason than I knew Chaisson’s attorney, Michael Cristalli, was lying, at least about Chaisson’s future schedule. Cristalli, in arguing to spread out Chaisson’s community service requirements on an annual rather than a weekly basis, said Chaisson would be tied up 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and when the judge asked when Chaisson would do schoolwork, Cristalli mentioned something about a 10 p.m. team study hall.
That’s nonsense, of course. Football players’ schedules are tightly packed, but football doesn’t go until 10 p.m. Study hall and homework certainly can come before that. Who would have thought: misrepresentation of the situation by an attorney.
The theme of the court discussion about community service centered on Chaisson being too busy. Of course, the judge could have been thinking that Chaisson getting the heck out of her town and going to school halfway across the country was community service enough.
Anyway, Cristalli certainly talked in court like he was working in cooperation with OU to get Chaisson freed to become a Sooner, and afterwards he told our man Jake Trotter that he had maintained communication with OU officials in working out a plea agreement that would allow Chaisson to retain his scholarship. OU policy forbids an athletic scholarship to someone who has been convicted of a felony.
The entire episode puts Bob Stoops in a bad situation. Carrying guns onto high school campuses, kidnapping and threatening to kill an ex-girlfriend, these are not actions that play well on the Oklahoma plains or much of anywhere else.
But coaches, laudably, believe they can positively impact wayward young men. And they can, though it doesn’t always happen. But coaches also are charged with maintaining a quality football program, pleasing not just to fans hungry for wins but a president and donors who want, and sometimes demand, a certain decorum. Stoops prides himself on running a solid ship, and he has, but it won’t take too many more recruits Josh Jarboe and Justin Chaisson to alter the image of OU football.
These are not easy decisions to make, and I wasn’t being flippant a year ago when I said I’m glad it’s Stoops’ responsibility. Not being flippant now. I believe in second chances. I also believe in keeping screwdrivers off girls’ necks.
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