Terps safety faces assault charges

Misdemeanor counts await Wimbush from Oct. 2005 incident in College Park

September 07, 2006|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun reporter

COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland starting strong safety Marcus Wimbush is facing three misdemeanor charges, according to charging documents obtained yesterday.

Wimbush, a senior from Washington, was charged in March with two counts of second-degree assault and a fourth-degree sex offense after incidents that occurred about 1 a.m. on Oct. 31, 2005, at the Cornerstone Grill and Loft in College Park.

He was not arrested that night - the same night a group of Maryland football players was involved in an altercation at the same popular bar. The fight resulted in the suspension of four players for one game and sanctions against numerous others for violating team rules. University officials never released the names of the players involved.

Wimbush was granted a continuance in July, and his new trial date in Prince George's County District Court is Jan. 26.

Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow yesterday said Wimbush has not been suspended because he never admitted culpability and the outcome of the charges is still pending. It was reported last year that three of the suspended players admitted their involvement in the fight.

According to the university's Student-Athlete Handbook, felony charges are an immediate cause for suspension, but misdemeanor charges leave room for discretion, and the athletic director determines the athletes' playing and practice status.

"A charge of any kind is considered serious and unacceptable," Yow said. "The disciplinary policy delineates the difference in how misdemeanors are to be dealt with vs. any felony charge.

"There is a greater degree of flexibility allowed in the management of misdemeanor charges. Student-athletes are generally allowed the opportunity to continue to compete, pending the outcome of misdemeanor charges, especially when the student-athlete voices his or her innocence. This gives the court the opportunity to do their work and for us to understand the outcome prior to taking action."

According to the court documents, two women were standing near the bar when Wimbush allegedly approached one of them and grabbed her buttocks. She told him to stop, and he began yelling and cursing at her.

A friend of the woman's tried to intervene, and Wimbush allegedly grabbed her by her neck and began shouting at her. According to the documents, Wimbush didn't let her go until somebody - it's unclear who - persuaded him to. The women then notified bouncers, who told Wimbush to leave.

According to the document, "a large brawl broke out at this time, so the victims sought the assistance of the University of Maryland police officers." The women pointed out Wimbush.

Prince George's County police said last year that the altercation began after a woman in the bar complained of being groped, but it is unclear if this particular instance initiated the fight.

When asked about the charges after practice yesterday, Wimbush declined to comment.

Keith Hiller, Wimbush's attorney, said the charges against his client were unrelated to the fight that broke out in the bar.

"I know that a bunch of players got in trouble and he happened to be there, but he wasn't involved in that," Hiller said. "It was a totally separate thing. He wasn't even arrested that night."

Wimbush played in all 11 games last season and became a starter this year. He had three tackles in Saturday's season-opening win over William and Mary.

Note -- Maryland offensive tackle Dane Randolph returned to practice yesterday from a sprained ankle, but receiver Drew Weatherly remained in a boot.

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

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