Kelly Whitney's trial nears its end

Updated: May 25, 2011, 7:44 PM ET
Associated Press

NEWARK, N.J. -- Jurors considering the fate of a former Seton Hall basketball player charged with robbing eight students at gunpoint last year heard his attorney on Wednesday call his alleged accomplice -- another former Pirate player -- a liar and cast doubt on whether the victims accurately identified him.

Both sides made closing arguments in the case against Kelly Whitney, who played for Seton Hall from 2002 to 2006 and finished as the Pirates' 18th-leading scorer with 1,446 points. Whitney faces robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, weapons and kidnapping counts. Prosecutors say the men tied up the students with duct tape during the robbery.

He was arrested in March 2010 along with Robert Mitchell, a 2010 team member who had been kicked off the squad the same week. Mitchell pleaded guilty last fall and testified at Whitney's trial that the men robbed several students at gunpoint in an off-campus apartment after smoking marijuana with some of them earlier in the day.

Remi Spencer, Whitney's attorney, told jurors that Mitchell changed his story about the incident numerous times and that identifications made by the robbery victims couldn't be trusted partly because they are white and Whitney is black.

Mitchell "is a liar" and there was "no meaningful identification of Kelly Whitney as the robber," Spencer said. She also said no DNA or fingerprint evidence linked Whitney to the scene.

Assistant Essex County Prosecutor Chris Ruzich asked jurors to consider why Mitchell would falsely accuse Whitney, his good friend. Whitney wore gloves to avoid leaving evidence behind, Ruzich said, but it wasn't enough.

"What he left behind was a coconspirator who knew who he was," he told the jury.

Deliberations are expected to begin Thursday.

The robbery culminated a turbulent period for Seton Hall's basketball program.

Two days after then-coach Bobby Gonzalez kicked Mitchell off the team in a dispute over playing time, the Pirates were blown out in the opening round of the NIT by Texas Tech. Gonzalez was fired a day later, and Mitchell and Whitney were arrested within days.

Gonzalez sued the university over his dismissal and reached a settlement in August. Terms were not disclosed.


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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