EUGENE, Ore. -- Oregon Ducks star running back LaMichael James was sentenced to 10 days, and 24 months probation, as part of a plea deal Friday morning in court. According to Lane County, James will not actually serve time in jail but will instead get an electronic monitoring ankle braclet for 10 days.
James, 20, pleaded guilty to one of the five misdemeanor counts against him and was sentenced in Lane County Circuit Court. He was initially charged with strangulation, fourth-degree assault and two charges of physical harassment. But all the charges except one harassment charge were dropped as part of a plea deal.
The charges stemmed from an alleged domestic assault incident in which a woman who said she was his girlfriend told police he tried to strangle her and threw her to the ground.
He was to have reported to jail by 4 p.m. Friday. But authorities said he would not spend any additional nights behind bars, due to jail overcrowding. Instead, he would be ordered to serve the time through community service.
Frankly, in using jail space for a young man like Mr. James, and given the nature of the conduct, it would have been a waste [to put him in jail], given the needs we have in Lane County, said Lane County District Attorney Alex Gardner.
The sentencing memorandum for James includes a letter of apology to his victim:
I apologize to (victim) both for the incident and everything she has had to go through since it happened. I accept responsibility for my actions. I am also sorry that she has been treated by some people as though she deserved blame for this. She does not. I ask people to treat her with respect. She has not done anything wrong.
(Victim) and I have been in a relationship that has meant a lot to both of us. Regardless of how things are now, I care for and respect her and ask that others do the same. During the long period we were boyfriend-girlfriend, we each grew close to one another s families. I think we all still care for each other in that way.
I hope to put this matter behind me now and learn from it. I have made a mistake and accept the consequences. I look forward to demonstrating to my University, to my team and to the community that I am a better man than recent events suggest.
James' attorney added that the short sentence and credit for time served will allow him to return to school to hopefully complete his education.
James' arrest was one of several separate criminal cases involving current Ducks players.
Ducks involved in several criminal cases
Last January, quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and backup wide receiver Garrett Embry were accused of stealing laptops and other electronics from a Eugene fraternity house. Both were scheduled to appear in court Friday afternoon on the charges. Embry has already been dismissed from the team for what the Head Coach Chip Kelly would only describe as an unspecified violation of team rules. Masoli was still on the team as of Friday morning, and Coach Kelly said he would make an announcement regarding Masoli sometime Friday.
Also on Jan. 24, at least two Ducks football players were involved in a large brawl near the U of O campus. One of them - kicker Rob Beard - was kicked in the head and knocked unconscious during the violent fight. Witnesses said he had been trying to break up the fight because his teammate and fellow kicker Mike Bowlin was getting beaten up. Beard was later cited for assault.
Police previously cited UO football player Matt Simms for investigation of misdemeanor assault in what police allege was an attack on someone Simms thought was involved in beating up Beard. Simms has since left the team. So has Bowlin, who withdrew from the university as both a student and an athlete.
As for James, investigators said the alleged incident took place outside his apartment. They said a woman who said she was his girlfriend told police the two were arguing and then he grabbed her around the neck and pushed her to the ground. The initial charges carried a possible one-year prison term.
James was initially charged with domestic violence strangulation, assault and menacing. He was released on bail and ordered to wear an electronic surveillance bracelet around his ankle.
Coach Kelly made a statement to the media on the day news surfaced of his arrest:
We are concerned anytime a student-athlete is mentioned in a police report, head coach Chip Kelly said in the statement. We do not condone any behavior that doesn't meet university standards or our football program's standards, and we go to great lengths to actively educate our student-athletes regarding appropriate conduct. We have the utmost confidence in the local law enforcement authorities to determine the facts in all instances involving our student-athletes, and will reserve further judgment or comment until further information is available.
The Ducks Web site describes James (#21 in photo above) as one of their strongest freshman players ever. Few players have ever made the impact in their initial campaign at Oregon as the Pac-10's Offensive Freshman of the Year as evidenced by him [James] becoming the school's first freshman on record to earn the team's Most Outstanding Player accolades, his bio said.
The 20-year-old athlete is from Texas and was ranked the 12th-best running back in the country during his high school career.
James was moved up in the Ducks roster last year when running back LaGarrette Blount was suspended for slugging a Boise State player in the season opener.
That incident brought negative attention to the Ducks and the University of Oregon. Blount was later re-instated near the end of the season, in time to play in the Civil War and the Rose Bowl.