Linebacker, tackle charged with aggravated battery

Updated: August 2, 2004, 7:30 PM ET
Associated Press

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Linebacker Matt Sinclair, Illinois' leading tackler, and tackle Ryan Matha, another returning starter, were charged Monday with aggravated battery stemming from a weekend bar fight, prosecutors said.

Sinclair, 22, and Matha, 21, were accused of tackling and punching Jamaal L. Applewhite, 19, of Champaign, according to court documents. Applewhite also was charged with aggravated battery and accused of hitting Sinclair on the head with a beer bottle, according to the court papers.

The three men were arrested shortly after 1:30 a.m. Saturday when officers were called to a bar near campus, said Champaign police spokeswoman Joan Walls. She declined to release any details of the fight.

Aggravated battery is a Class 3 felony, which carries a penalty of 2 to 5 years in prison, according to Illinois law.

Matha and Applewhite were treated at an Urbana hospital for minor injuries before being taken to jail, Walls said. All three were released on bond Saturday, according to the Champaign County sheriff's office.

Illini coach Ron Turner declined to comment on the arrests or whether he was planning any disciplinary action, said team spokeswoman Cassie Arner.

"We can't really talk when there's legal issues at hand," Arner said. "We need to let the legal process play out."

Sinclair, a 6-3, 245-pound senior, led the Illini in tackles last season with 129 and earned honorable mention Big Ten honors.

Matha, a 6-3, 300-pound junior, started the final eight games last season after returning from a knee injury that forced him to miss five games in 2002.

Practice for the fall season starts next week, and Sinclair had been scheduled to attend Big Ten media day in Chicago this week but will not make the trip, Arner said. Running back E.B. Halsey will go in his place, she said.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press