Gators quarterback Treon Harris has just been suspended from activities
involving the University (of Florida) Athletic Association due to an ongoing
police investigation into alleged sexual battery on a female student by
him at the University last Sunday.
The University of Florida's own Police Department is carrying out the
investigation after Harris was accused by a student of sexual battery
at a campus residence hall. The Gainesville Police Department is apparently
also assisting with analyzing forensic evidence which may have some bearing
on the case, although the investigation is not actually in their jurisdiction
as the alleged assault took place on University property.
Harris is being represented by a local criminal defense attorney, Huntley
Johnson, although at this stage the quarterback has not been officially
charged. Johnson says that Harris is cooperating with the investigation.
The alleged sexual battery took place at the University's Springs Residence
sometime between 2.30 and 3.25 a.m. on Sunday morning. This hall of residence
houses quite a large number of athletes who are also students at the University,
as well as other students. It seems that the UFPD was not actually told
about the alleged battery until 12.49 on Monday.
The UFPD is being particularly coy about the investigation and at this
point in time is only confirming that an investigation is ongoing, but
is not releasing any further information.
Bernie Machen, who is the University's President, has made a comment
about the University's attitude towards sexual 'assault' on
the campus, without referring directly to the alleged case involving Harris.
In Florida law, the term sexual battery is the one that actually applies
in the Harris accusations and it seems that the University has been using
the terms assault and battery interchangeably.
The University Athletic Association has suspended Harris from all its activities
pending the results of the police investigation and it is possible that
he may be suspended from all attendance on campus, depending on what the
Students Affairs Committee decides according to the University's own
Student Conduct Code.
If Harris is formally charged with sexual battery, it could be extremely
serious for the young athlete. Sexual battery is a criminal offense in
Florida, classed as a felony in the first degree and can result in imprisonment,
a heavy fine, probation and placement on a sex offender's register
for the rest of one's life if found guilty. The minimum period of
imprisonment in Florida is 34 and a half months, but the judge can sentence
a person found guilty of sexual battery up to 15 years in prison together
with a fine of $10,000. The consequences for a promising student and athlete
as far as the rest of their careers and personal life are severe.
Because cases of alleged sexual battery are serious charges they need to
be investigated thoroughly in order to protect the alleged victim and
establish who is guilty. In many cases, these charges can be hard for
the prosecution to prove without witnesses or substantial forensic evidence.
In some cases, a decision which can affect a defendant's life forever
may hinge on the testimony of the alleged victim of the battery. It is
not unknown for alleged perpetrators of sexual battery to be falsely accused
of a crime of this magnitude for a number of personal reasons and even
if a charge is disproved it may be hard to shrug off the bad reputation
acquired during the lead up to a trial.
If you are accused of an offense of this nature, then you should neither
assume that you are going to be found guilty or imagine that your charge
can be defended without the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
There is too much at stake in cases like this and many prosecutors will
often stop at nothing in order to gain a conviction.
You have a right to defend any sort of criminal charge against you and
you should be reminded that you cannot be convicted of a criminal charge
such as sexual battery unless you have been proven guilty beyond doubt
in court. It will be the job of a good criminal defense lawyer to provide
you with the very best strategy to see that justice is done and that the
verdict of any criminal charge laid against you is a fair one.