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Probes Could Take Weeks

Police, USC investigate after arrest of football player Winston Justice on a weapon charge.

March 09, 2004|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

A police investigation following the arrest of USC offensive lineman Winston Justice could take until the end of the month, and a school judiciary investigation and review probably will not be completed for weeks, officials said Monday.

Justice, a 19-year-old sophomore, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of felony assault with a deadly weapon in connection with an incident that occurred near the USC campus in late February. Justice is on probation after pleading no contest in July to a misdemeanor count of solicitation of prostitution in Long Beach.

Justice was suspended from school indefinitely Friday and ruled ineligible for spring practice, which began Saturday and resumes today after a two-day break.

Lt. Gregg Strenk, commanding officer of the Los Angeles Police Department's Southwest Division detectives, said the case could be presented to the district attorney's office for possible charges by the end of March.

Michael Jackson, vice president for student affairs at USC, said Justice would remain suspended from classes pending an investigation and review by the Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards.

Jackson said it could take several weeks for a hearing officer to gather information and interview witnesses, and for a hearing officer or review panel to render a decision.

"This case is being treated just like that of any other student on campus who had a problem," Jackson said.

In 2001, Marcell Allmond missed the season after he had been suspended for a semester by a USC panel for his role in a series of violent off-the-field incidents. He returned to school and played cornerback in 2002 and 2003.

According to information provided by Strenk and the LAPD's media relations section, the incident that led to Justice's recent arrest occurred Feb. 24 about 11 p.m. in the 3100 block of McClintock Avenue.

As he tried to drive into a parking lot, Justice got into a dispute with the occupants of another vehicle. He allegedly got out of his car and displayed a firearm.

The three people in the other vehicle drove away, but one recognized Justice and the incident was reported to USC's Department of Public Safety the next day, police said. On Feb. 28, USC officers submitted the results of their investigation to the Southwest Division.

Detectives met with USC Public Safety officials Wednesday and took over responsibility for the case.

Justice was arrested and booked at the Southwest Division station Wednesday afternoon. He was freed on $50,000 bail early Thursday.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department website has listed the arrest charge as 245(A)(1) -- assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm. But Strenk said the actual charge -- 245(A)(2) -- is assault with a firearm.

Article 11.47A of USC's Student Conduct Code forbids the "unauthorized use or possession of firearms or replicas, ammunition, explosives, knives or other weapons in the university community or at university-sponsored events."

Justice, a two-year starter who could be an All-America candidate next season, said Sunday that he could not comment on the incident during the police and campus investigations.

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