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Oliver charged with battery, theft

8/18/2004 - LSU Tigers

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."