Trevor Mbakwe avoids trial
MINNEAPOLIS -- Tired of the seemingly endless delays in his felony assault case, Minnesota basketball recruit Trevor Mbakwe decided on Thursday to enroll in a pretrial program and not go to trial on the charges.
Upon completion, the state of Florida will drop its case against him and there will be no criminal conviction on his record.
"Basically the only reason that we took it is one more of convenience and also the fact that by doing this we get to the same end result as if we went to trial and won without the trauma and time constraints of that," said Mbakwe's attorney, Gregory Samms.
The case dragged on for more than a year after Mbakwe was accused of attacking a woman while enrolled at Miami-Dade Community College in April 2009. Mbakwe maintained he was innocent all along, saying it was a case of mistaken identity.
His decision to enter the pretrial intervention program is not an admission of guilt. The program lasts six months and requires Mbakwe to serve 100 hours of community service and donate $100 to a Florida shelter for abuse victims.
Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi and coach Tubby Smith ruled that Mbakwe would be ineligible to play for the Gophers until his case was settled. The series of delays and continuances caused Mbakwe to miss all of last season, and he wasn't prepared to go through that again, Samms said.
"It's hard to continue going on, going to trial, going through all the delays and having somebody accuse you of something you didn't do," Samms said.
Frustrated by Maturi's stance, Mbakwe had considered transferring schools, but this decision opens the door for him to rejoin the Gophers if he so chooses. The university issued a press release on Thursday evening saying Mbakwe had been reinstated to the program and he will be eligible to start practicing with the Gophers when they resume on Aug. 21.
"This process has been difficult and I am relieved it is finally being resolved," Maturi said in a statement. "It's now time to move and I am glad that he is going to have an opportunity to be a member of our basketball program with two years of eligibility remaining."
Maturi said Smith will meet with Mbakwe soon to try to figure out if the forward will return to school in the fall.
Mbakwe was eligible to enter the pre-trial program as a "first-time offender," but Samms said this option is usually only available to those charged with misdemeanors, not felonies.
"They had no case and they're just trying to cover themselves," he said.
Miami-Dade State's Attorney's office spokeswoman Terry Chavez issued a statement saying it was Mbakwe's choice to enter the program after "lengthy defense continuances in this case."
"The victim was in full agreement with the decisions made in this case," Miami-Dade State's Attorney's office spokeswoman Terry Chavez said. "The past year has been very difficult for her."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press