DATE: Tuesday, July 8, 1997 TAG: 9707080429 SECTION: SPORTS PAGE: C2 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: BY MICHAEL HEMPHILL AND LISA K. GARCIA, LANDMARK NEWS SERVICE DATELINE: CHRISTIANSBURG, VA. LENGTH: 79 lines
Virginia Tech defensive tackle Brad Baylor was found innocent Monday of abducting and forcing a University of Virginia student to drink himself unconscious.
Baylor's acquittal was followed by the last of eight assault cases against current and former football players stemming from a brawl on College Avenue in Blacksburg last summer that resulted in a broken collarbone for track athlete Hilliard Sumner.
Nathaniel Williams was found not guilty of misdemeanor assault and battery and Sean Sullivan was convicted of one assault charge and acquitted of another. Sullivan will serve two days in jail.
Montgomery County Commonwealth's Attorney Phil Keith said the effect of all the cases taken together was as important as the individual verdicts.
``The cases have been beneficial because they led to the adoption of (new disciplinary) policies at Tech,'' Keith said.
In February the university's Board of Visitors - reacting to a series of off-field incidents involving athletes - took much of the decision making out of coaches' hands and put it in the athletic director's. Chief among the changes was that athletes charged with felonies will immediately be suspended from practice and playing until the charges are resolved in court.
Baylor, a junior defensive tackle at the time of his arrest, faced up to 10 years in prison if he had been convicted.
Circuit Judge Ray Grubbs made clear that although the evidence did not support a guilty verdict, he felt the maximum sentence would have been appropriate for anyone found guilty of forcing the victim to drink enough alcohol to reach the potentially fatal blood alcohol level of 0.346 percent.
On July 27, 1996, at 1:30 a.m., Blacksburg police found Todd Pringle face down on a North Main Street sidewalk. The University of Virginia student was treated in the Columbia Montgomery Regional Hospital's intensive care unit for a blood alcohol content more than four times the legal limit. A significant portion of Pringle's hair had been shaved off when police found him.
Pringle testified that three or four people kept him inside Baylor's house after he entered it looking for a friend. He said Baylor and others forced him into the kitchen and threatened to beat him if he didn't drink several shots of liquor.
Baylor's attorneys revealed that Pringle had made conflicting statements as to how much alcohol he'd consumed before entering the home - from two beers to eight beers. The defense also showed discrepancies in the evidence as to when Pringle said he drank the beer.
Baylor testified that he and some friends found Pringle that night staggering through his back yard, already drunk. ``He couldn't stand more than, like, 15 seconds without falling,'' Baylor said.
Baylor said that when the group went inside - including Pringle voluntarily - Pringle went into the kitchen alone and started drinking from a bottle of liquor. When Baylor and his roommates threatened to call police, Pringle fled. That was the last he was seen, Baylor said.
The defense couldn't explain how Pringle's hair got cut, ``however, it's not for the defendant to explain this but for the state through its evidence,'' the judge ruled. ILLUSTRATION: Graphic
Virginia Tech football players charged in the Aug. 31, 1996
beating of two Virginia Tech track team members, and the outcomes of
Cornell Brown: assault and battery; convicted (30 days in jail,
Tyron Edmond: assault and battery; convicted (30 days in jail, 28
Brian Edmonds: assault and battery; convicted of a lesser charge,
disorderly conduct (30 days in jail, 28 suspended)
Angelo Harrison: attempted malicious wounding; dismissed
Michael Hawkes: assault and battery; dismissed
Sean Sullivan: assault and battery; convicted of one assault
charge and acquitted of another (2 days in jail)
Nat Williams: assault and battery; dismissed
Greg Melvin: (former player) assault and battery; dismissed KEYWORDS: VIRGINIA TECH
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