Williams on probation, named in complaints

Updated: February 7, 2004, 12:15 PM ET
Associated Press

MIAMI -- University of Miami officials concede they failed to properly perform a background check on the team's top recruit.

But they did not rescind the scholarship offer to linebacker Willie Williams.

Williams, a Parade All-American, is on probation for felony burglary charges in 2002. He also is named in three criminal complaints stemming from a recruiting trip to the University of Florida last weekend.

The complaints could lead to his arrest in Broward County for a probation violation. If Williams is arrested, he could be sentenced to up to five years in prison, an administrator with the Department of Corrections said Friday.

Miami athletic director Paul Dee said Friday coaches and officials will review all the information that becomes available before making a decision on whether Williams will be allowed to enroll in school.

"In situations of this kind, we have to be fair to the prospective student-athlete," Dee said in a statement. "All other indicators are positive, specifically his academic qualifications and the recommendations of coaches and administrators."

Williams' criminal record paints a much different picture.

He has been arrested 10 times since 1999, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records.

He was charged with theft as a 14-year-old, in 1999. He was arrested five times the following year, including twice on felony charges.

His most recent arrest occurred July 11, 2002, when Pembroke Pines police charged him with burglary and possession of burglary tools, according to the Department of Corrections.

Williams, then 17, was prosecuted as an adult on the felony charges. He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 18 months of probation, court records show.

Miami athletic department spokesman Mark Pray said the school performs background checks on each recruit, but he wasn't sure if it covers criminal records.

"The process used to screen backgrounds was insufficient in that it failed to reveal all that is now public," Dee said. "In this regard, we must improve our efforts to obtain information of this type in the future."

Williams was less than two weeks from the end of his probation when he was named in the three complaints.

Williams allegedly hugged a female student without her permission, hit a man at a bar and set off three fire extinguishers in his hotel -- all in span of five hours during the recruiting trip that began Jan. 30.

The State Attorney's Office in Gainesville will investigate the sworn complaints before deciding whether to officially charge Williams.

Don Monroe, circuit administrator for the Department of Corrections, said Friday that his office was working with police and the state attorney's office in Gainesville to determine whether Williams violated his probation.

"If we're going to do something, we have to do it before his probation ends," Monroe said. "We think we have enough time to examine all the facts and not rush into anything."

Williams' probation ends Wednesday.

If the Department of Corrections decides Williams violated his probation, it would then present evidence to Circuit Judge Michael Kaplan, who presided over Williams' burglary case.

The judge could then issue a warrant for Williams' arrest, Monroe said.

Kaplan would have sole power to sentence Williams. Monroe said the sentence could range from extended probation to five years in prison --the sentence Williams' originally faced in the burglary charges.

Florida coach Ron Zook said Friday that Williams' case has prompted his staff to re-evaluate how it decides which prospects will be invited to the campus.

"We've got to do a better job of finding out everything there is to know," Zook said. "I mean, we're not the only ones. From my understanding, no one knew this."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press