Pierce pleads innocent; could face 10-year term


IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa basketball player Pierre Pierce was
arrested early Tuesday on a sexual assault charge and suspended
from the team.

Pierce, who had the second most assists of any freshman in
school history last season, pleaded innocent and was released. He
agreed not to travel outside Iowa and Illinois.

The charge stems from a report filed Sept. 7 by a woman treated
at a hospital emergency room the day before. Police searched
Pierce's home six days later.

Defense lawyer Maggi Moss said Pierce and the woman knew each
other and that any sex was consensual.

Pierce, who appeared in court via closed-circuit television, said little during his appearance. If convicted, he could be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison and fined up to $15,000 for the Class C felony.

Pierce's suspension is a departure for the school, which usually
waits for the legal process to play out before making a decision.
Iowa athletic director Bob Bowlsby said the school took action
because of the "severity'' of the charge.

"Our entire basketball family stands behind Pierre as we hope
for a very fair outcome to this charge,'' coach Steve Alford said
in a statement.

The 19-year-old Pierce, of Westmont, Ill., started 32 of 35
games as a freshman, mostly at point guard. He had 114 assists and
was the team's fourth leading scorer, scoring 7.1 points a game.