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What, and When, Should a Coach Know if a Player Is in Trouble? : College football: At the start of the season, USC had four players with outstanding warrants, search of criminal records shows. Coaches there and at other schools say numbers reflect society.

October 29, 1994|GREG SANDOVAL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jonathan Beauregard, a starting offensive lineman for the Cal State Northridge football team, went about his business in the normal student-athlete manner. He went to school, went to practice and played in the Matadors' first four games.

Beauregard's coaches didn't know he had been arrested on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon, a charge later upgraded to attempted murder. He had been booked in connection with the shooting of his former girlfriend and her male acquaintance.

Suddenly, Northridge Coach Bob Burt found himself in a position that more and more coaches--regardless of the size or status of the program--find themselves. He was unaware of something he wished he had known.

Considering the perception that more and more college athletes are getting into more and more trouble, Burt's situation underscored a somewhat new issue: How much should coaches know? Does their responsibility end when a player steps off the field?

Beauregard's situation is not unique.

In the wake of several incidents, The Times conducted a computer search of Los Angeles County criminal records, looking at all USC and UCLA football players who were on each team's opening-day roster. The search showed that USC started the season with four players who were wanted by the police. No players from UCLA had outstanding warrants for their arrest.

The search also showed that three of the four USC players are still wanted and considered fugitives from the law. An attorney representing one of the players said that he had the warrant for his client recalled and quashed on Friday. In addition, five other USC players had been arrested sometime since their 18th birthdays. In four of the latter cases, the charges were dismissed. The fifth player spent a year in jail.

UCLA had one player who had been arrested for a traffic offense but was not jailed and is on probation.

The search of criminal records does not include any charges made before any of the players were 18, since juvenile records are not public. All the charges cited here are misdemeanors. Police generally do not have the manpower to enforce misdemeanor warrants. Most people brought to jail on these warrants are discovered through routine traffic stops.

Keyshawn Johnson, USC's star wide receiver, was in the group that at the start of the season was wanted by police. But his situation has since been resolved.

There was a warrant for Johnson's arrest in connection with the theft of a portable telephone and pager from an electronics store in 1991. After being asked about the misdemeanor warrant by a Times reporter, Johnson turned himself in, and the charges were recently dropped when prosecutors could not locate the victim of the theft. Johnson, 22, has maintained that his was a case of mistaken identity. USC coaches and officials said they were unaware of the warrant.

"From the get-go, he has always denied he did this," said Michael C. Carney, an attorney who represents Johnson and other USC players. "He had no use for the phone and it wouldn't have been him."

USC coaches and officials also said they were unaware of other outstanding warrants involving their players until asked about them by The Times. The players and their situations:

--Jesse Davis, 24, is a cornerback who has played in three games and made five tackles. He pleaded no contest in June to carrying a concealed weapon in his car and driving with a suspended license. He was sentenced to four days in jail, two years' probation and ordered to perform 10 days of labor on a Caltrans clean-up team.

He failed to appear in court Sept. 14 to provide proof he had completed his Caltrans work. As a result, his probation was revoked and a $10,000 bench warrant was issued for his arrest.

A week before his arrest on the concealed-weapon charge, Davis was arrested for battery and hit-and-run with injury. He pleaded not guilty to those charges, and the case is scheduled for a pretrial hearing in November.

"He has pleaded not guilty and we are proceeding accordingly," Carney, also Davis' attorney, said.

Davis said he believed all charges against him had been resolved and referred further questions to his attorney. Carney said Thursday he was unaware of the concealed-weapon charge against Davis but on Friday said he was taking the case. He said that he had the warrant on Davis recalled on Friday.

--Mario Bradley, 22, is a cornerback who has played in five games and has made 15 tackles. He pleaded no contest to inflicting corporal injury on his spouse in July. Bradley was put on three years' probation, ordered to perform 300 hours of community service and to pay $100 to the YWCA Battered Women's Shelter. Bradley, like Davis, failed to appear in court in May to show proof he had paid the $100 fine. His probation was revoked and a $12,500 warrant exists for his arrest.

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