Parker glad he's getting 2nd chance Admitted sex offender starting over at LIU


NEW YORK -- Richie Parker's mother was right next to him, sitting with her hands folded, jiggling her foot now and then under the table.

She seemed a little nervous, a little anxious. After all, her son was announcing he was coming back to New York, where he had been labeled an outcast after a guilty plea to the first-degree sexual abuse of a 15-year-old on Jan. 13, 1995; where the scrutiny of his life as a Manhattan Center senior became physically unbearable for her.

Just 17 months later, Parker said yesterday that he planned to attend Long Island University on a basketball scholarship. He said he was coming home to be near his friends and family and end his basketball exile despite the resistance that may be ahead of him.

"A lot of people are glad I'm getting a chance," Parker said at a news conference at Riverside Church in Manhattan. "LIU has given me a chance. This is part of the process of going on with my life. I'm happy with the opportunity."

No other school at the Division I level had offered one. Within two weeks of Parker's guilty plea, Seton Hall buckled under the public outrage, refusing him admittance after he had signed a letter of intent. Supporting Parker would send "a wrong message," school officials said at the time.

Image consciousness also sent Utah and George Washington away. No school wanted a sex offender wearing its uniform. A felon -- that's what Parker became to many people.

"I was angry that they backed off because of media pressure," said Parker, 20, who received five years probation in a plea bargain. "I felt the media was unfair, that they portrayed me as someone I wasn't."

The crumbling of Parker's future was wrenching for his mother to watch. The media coverage, protests by women's groups, schools walking away from him, it all became too much for her in July 1995.

"It was very hard," Rosita Parker said. "It threw me in the hospital. I had high blood pressure and chest pains."

A month later, Parker left New York for Arizona. It was a getaway of sorts. He attended Mesa Community College, where the protests upon his arrival quieted, then ceased after three weeks.

"Once the initial protests calmed down, he was just like any other student," athletic director Allan Benedect said.

After that, he became a regular student. Not a basketball player. The school allowed him admittance as a student only.

"It was nice," Parker said. "It gave me time to mature."

He left MCC with a 2.5 grade-point average and a better image. With LIU, Parker could compete in the Northeast Conference with an expected four years of eligibility left and display the talent that so many were scrambling for when the 6-foot-5-inch guard was heavily recruited out of Manhattan Center.

He'll come back to a campus that wants him to be there. LIU officials can't comment on Parker -- whose basketball scholarship will be pending his admittance -- but they are supportive of any student who wants a second chance.

"I really believe in the resilience of young people," said Gale Haynes, the provost for the Brooklyn Campus of LIU, "how they can overcome their struggles, how someone can come here either timid or angry or troubled and develop into a caring, productive person with a wonderful future."

That's what Parker says he wants now, a future -- with or without the NBA.

Pub Date: 6/11/96

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