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USC Quarterback Sanchez Free on Bail

Freshman was arrested in alleged sexual assault. A decision about charges may be delayed.

April 28, 2006|David Wharton and Gary Klein | Times Staff Writers

USC quarterback Mark Sanchez was free on bail Thursday, a day after he was arrested at his apartment on suspicion that he sexually assaulted a female student.

Sanchez was ordered to appear in court at 8:30 a.m. May 17, but police have not presented the case to prosecutors, and charges have not been filed, said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Sanchez could not be reached for comment.

Sanchez, a freshman who was expected to challenge for a starting role in the fall, was led in handcuffs from Building E of the Cardinal Gardens apartment complex across from campus about 4 p.m. Wednesday. Police have said the assault allegedly took place in the early-morning hours of Wednesday but have declined to provide any other details about the case.

Had Sanchez not posted bail, authorities would have had 48 hours to charge or release him. Now, however, that decision could be delayed. A source familiar with the case said a determination about charges probably would not be made this week.

Witnesses and security cameras placed Sanchez at a club near campus from 11:21 p.m. Tuesday night to 12:59 Wednesday morning, and later, about 1:30 a.m., in a parking lot behind the apartment complex.

Sanchez's arrest came only hours after he attended an on-campus workshop for USC athletes about rape awareness.

USC Coach Pete Carroll said he had spoken with Sanchez, but he would not comment about the conversation.

The Trojan football program has been rocked twice this week -- first by news that the Pacific 10 Conference was investigating allegations that the family of Heisman Trophy-winning running back Reggie Bush may have received what the NCAA would consider illegal "extra benefits," and then Sanchez's arrest.

"This process is like, 'You're guilty until proven innocent' " Carroll said, "because it goes to the media and it's splashed.... It surely gives everybody the impression, 'Oh no, it happened.' You'd think the facts would come out first.

"That's the world we live in. That comes with high profile and visibility. That's why we're so hard on every aspect with our kids, so this doesn't happen and we avoid these things."

Carroll has said the USC football program would offer its full cooperation during the investigation.

Sanchez has been placed on "interim suspension" by USC, meaning he cannot attend class or participate in other student activities until the university reviews the situation further.

Spring semester classes conclude today and final exams are May 3-10, which means Sanchez's academic eligibility to play football in the fall could be jeopardized.

However, a source close to the football program said Thursday that students suspended so close to the conclusion of their courses are likely to be allowed to complete work and take finals.

*

Wharton reported from Los Angeles, Klein from New York. Times staff writer Andrew Blankstein contributed to this report.

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