All three of the people charged on Monday in connection with thefts from the University of Georgia football locker room are Carver students who have since been removed from the Carver football team and now face additional disciplinary action, according to school district officials.
Carver junior defensive back Deion Bonner, 18, Carver running back Marquise T. Hawkins, 17, and an unnamed juvenile were named in warrants issued by the University of Georgia Police Department, and Bonner and Hawkins turned themselves in to Clarke County Jail in Athens, Ga., shortly after 9 a.m. Monday. It was not known if the juvenile, who is younger than 17, was also arrested.
Bonner and Hawkins have since posted bond and been released, according to jail records.
Bonner is charged with one count of theft by taking and his bond was set at $1,500; Hawkins is charged with two counts of theft by taking and was held on $3,000 bond; and the juvenile is charged with three counts of theft by taking.
The thefts occurred on April 7. According to police reports, items totaling $1,990 were stolen from lockers of Georgia football players Alexander Ogletree, Abry Jones, Kenarious Gates, Jordan Love, Rhett McGowan, Jamal Allen and Quintin Williams. Police listed eight stolen items, mostly iPods, iPads and accessories. At least some of the merchandise was recovered in the sweep of a Columbus home last week, according to UGA police.
Carver coach Dell McGee declined to give details about the punishment passed down to the athletes but said the timeline to complete it would preclude them from competing with the team through its first five games of the season.
“They know what their punishment is, and they won’t be back until at least the sixth game of the season with the things they have to do,” McGee said. “They see actions do have consequences.”
Bonner (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) is a highly recruited defensive back with scholarship offers from a long list of schools including Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Miami, South Carolina and Southern California. Bonner, Hawkins and the juvenile were on a recruiting visit at Georgia on April 7 when the thefts took place, according to police.
McGee said none of the three charged had been in trouble in school or with the team before and that he exepected colleges to continue recruiting Bonner in the future.
“He’s still talking to some people, and I’m sure he will be being monitored very closely the rest of this year and leading up to his senior year for how he progresses with this,” McGee said. “He will be on a very short leash. I’ll definitely vouch for him because I think he’s a good kid and that this was a one-time incident.”
McGee said he spoke with Georgia coach Mark Richt and said the Bulldogs coach viewed the alleged thefts as an isolated incident.
“(Richt) said these were just 16-, 17-year-old kids, that kids do different things, and it’s part of growing up,” McGee said. “It’s just an isolated incident that occurred. I know our program doesn’t stand for those types of things, and I don’t want to be represented by that.”
Gary Gibson, the Muscogee County School District system-wide athletic director and administrative assistant to the superintendent, said each of the three charged faces additional disciplinary action.
Because the students were taken on the recruiting trip by a community coach, it is considered a Muscogee County School District-sponsored event, Gibson said. Carver principal Christopher Lindsey and MCSD chief student services officer Melvin Blackwell will meet today or Tuesday to decide whether the disciplinary action will be handled by Carver of by the school district’s discipline tribunal, Gibson said.
If the decision remains with Carver, its administrators and coaches will decide on any disciplinary action. If it goes to the tribunal, which meets on Thursdays, its members will hand down any additional discipline rulings.
“Depending on if it stays in-house, following policy and state law, (the three students) can’t be part of a team if they are not in school, so we know they will be off the team for at least that time,” Gibson said. “If it goes to the tribunal, they will schedule it as soon as they can, and they will be off the team for that time. And they could be off the team for a long time depending on what the tribunal decides.”
Gibson also offered an apology on behalf of the school district.
“We want to apologize to (Georgia football coach Mark Richt), the players at Georgia, to the school, to administrators and the community,” Gibson said. “We are very sorry this has happened and we are trying to respond in a way that is correct, wise and prudent.”
On April 8, seven Georgia football players reported items stolen from their lockers in the Butts-Mehre building. There were eight reported items with a total value of $1,990, according to the incident reports. They ranged from an iPhone, with a case, valued at $500 taken from defensive end Abry Jones, to a $30 pair of Nike slippers taken from Jordan Love.
The lockers were not locked, according to the incident report, but access to the Butts-Mehre facility was secured by a fingerprint code.
University of Georgia police chief Jimmy Williamson said a search was performed last week in Columbus, and some items were recovered. But the electronic devices had already been sold away, he said.
Williamson said checks of Facebook were "helpful" in the investigation.
Check back at ledger-enquirer.com for more updates.