Nine charged with assault, conspiracy

Updated: December 10, 2009, 2:05 AM ET
By Adam Rittenberg | ESPN.com

Nine Michigan State football players have been charged with assault and conspiracy in connection with a Nov. 22 fight at a campus residence hall.

Charged Wednesday with misdemeanor conspiracy to commit an assault and battery as well as assault and battery were safety Roderick Jenrette, running back Glenn Winston, wide receiver Fred Smith, wide receiver B.J. Cunningham, defensive end Jamiihr Williams, wide receiver Mark Dell, running back Ashton Leggett, offensive tackle J'Micheal Deane and cornerback Chris L. Rucker.

Three of the nine players -- Jenrette, Winston and Leggett -- face multiple assault and battery charges.

The conspiracy charges carry a one-year maximum jail term, while the assault and battery misdemeanors carry the max of 93 days.

The investigation into the fight at Rather Hall is ongoing, and more charges could be coming.

"I can't say that there will be additional charges or additional persons charged, but I wouldn't preclude that," Ingram County prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III told ESPN.com.

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio dismissed Winston and Jenrette from the team and suspended eight others. The suspensions of Deane and receivers Chris D. Rucker and Donald Spencer were announced Wednesday.

The list of charged players includes three starters -- Dell, Cunningham and Chris L. Rucker -- and several others who have logged significant playing time.

None of the players will be allowed to travel with the team to the Valero Alamo Bowl on Jan. 2 in San Antonio.

A Michigan State spokesman said neither Dantonio nor athletic director Mark Hollis would comment on the charges, but Dantonio addressed the incident Saturday with local reporters.

"We're extremely disappointed," he said. "We talk all the time about our choices as people and about making the right choice. I think it's a very traumatic experience for this program, and we have got to be able to get past this situation."

The fight took place during a potluck function sponsored by the Iota Phi Theta fraternity, hours after Michigan State's team banquet. Winston reportedly had been in an altercation the previous night at a party thrown by the same fraternity at an East Lansing nightspot. An unnamed Michigan State player was charged with public urination and possession of alcohol by a minor outside the Small Planet nightclub.

Dell's father told the Detroit Free Press that Winston informed his teammates about the altercation, and they agreed to follow him to the potluck the next night.

"It wasn't like we weren't meeting that day," Dantonio said. "We had a 3:30 p.m. team meeting. We also had a feel-good banquet, to celebrate our football team and celebrate our seniors, so it's a disappointment [no one came forward]. But, I have been disappointed before. Our football program has been disappointed before, and we will rise above this. We always will."

Winston served nearly four months in jail for assault following another altercation involving Michigan State students last October that left hockey player A.J. Sturges seriously injured. Dantonio reinstated Winston to the team and allowed him to return to practice the day he was released from jail.

Adam Rittenberg covers Big Ten football for ESPN.com. He can be reached at espnritt@gmail.com.