Oliver charged with battery, theft

Updated: August 18, 2004, 5:57 PM ET
Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU defensive end Melvin Oliver has pleaded not guilty to simple battery and an added charge of misdemeanor theft.

Oliver appeared at Baton Rouge City Court on Tuesday to enter his plea on charges that he pushed his former girlfriend to the ground and took her cell phone.

The allegations by Bel Tyretta Leejay, who has a child with Oliver, resulted in a temporary restraining order against the 21-year-old football player.

Earlier this month, Oliver agreed to a yearlong protective order that requires him to stay away from Leejay and pay child support.

A trial on the criminal charges, both misdemeanors, is scheduled for Nov. 16 before City Court Judge Suzan Ponder.

Oliver's attorney, Mike Walsh, said they're exploring the possibility of a pretrial diversion program. However, Assistant City Prosecutor Lisa Freeman said Oliver isn't eligible because he allegedly threatened Leejay two weeks after the first incident.

"He will not be going through pretrial diversion," Freeman said. "We intend to go to trial."

Leejay claims Oliver pushed her to the ground in a grocery store parking lot on June 18 when she met him to get their son. She told police Oliver then grabbed her arm and dragged her across the parking lot.

The officer noted in his report that Leejay's right elbow was scraped and bleeding.

On June 28, city police cited Oliver for simple assault after receiving a second complaint from Leejay. According to the police report, Leejay said Oliver pulled up next to her as she left a friend's apartment, told her he had a gun and threatened to kill her if she was seeing someone else.

Oliver allegedly followed Leejay home and yelled at her while she sat in her car with the doors locked, the report says. He left, the report says, after she called police from inside her car.

Leejay told the officer that she never saw a weapon but that she is afraid of Oliver.

"She said [Oliver] plays football for LSU and he has been threatening her with violence to drop the previous battery charges because it could affect his ability to play," the officer wrote in the report.

Walsh said Oliver will be arraigned next month on the simple assault charge.

Oliver remains in good standing with LSU football coach Nick Saban, who has not been loath to suspend and remove players from his teams in the past. "That [Oliver's legal situation] is something that we want to make sure that we handle correctly," Saban said Tuesday when asked about Oliver. "But unless he gets convicted of some kind of felony ... ."

Saban has shown no reluctance in the past to suspend key players -- notably starting safety Damien James in the middle of the 2002 season for repeated rules violations.

Upon learning of Oliver's arrest on simple battery in June, Saban said he ordered Oliver to partake in a "ride along" program that the LSU Police have and to do community service through another program.

"You know I suspended a guy at Michigan State for three games when he got out of it when he went to court," Saban said. "But I knew he did it. So it's not about what the court says. It's about the kind of person the guy is, and what I believe and trust in the guy. And the guy [Oliver] has been around here for four years and he's been a really good guy and he's had a lot of positive influence on a lot of positive people. So I kind of believe in the guy, and he did everything that I asked him to do this summer in terms of community service, police ride-arounds and all that kind of stuff."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press