Felony, Misdemeanor Assault Charges ‘Excessive,’ Some Say
by Zenobia Jeffries
Special to the NNPA from The Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Excessive is how some describe the charges against Cass Technical High School student-athlete Jayru Campbell.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced at a press conference Feb. 11 the 17-year-old football player will be charged as an adult. Campbell, a junior quarterback, who led his team to back-to-back state championships as a freshman and sophomore in 2011 and 2012, faces a felony charge of assault to do great bodily harm, which carries a maximum 10-year sentence and a misdemeanor of aggravated assault, a one-year prison sentence, for allegedly body slamming a security guard on school premises.
“Any defendant would have been charged accordingly,” Worthy said. “Being a talented football player does not change these facts.”
A mobile video, titled “Jayru Campbell bodyslam of Cass Tech security guard,” went viral Jan. 22, showing a student at Cass Tech body-slamming a security guard.
According to Worthy and earlier news reports of the incident, when asked by the 23-year-old guard to remove his hood inside the building, Campbell refused.
In a statement following her announcement, Worthy said Campbell allegedly became “profane, picked the officer up and slammed him on the floor.”
A second video and Campbell’s teammate Jamaal Brown tell a different tale. Brown told Fox2 news following the incident that Campbell was protecting himself from the guard. “When somebody puts their hands on you, you got a right to defend yourself,” Brown said.
According to another report, the guard “tweeted soon after the incident, ‘Slam me when i’m not looking, lol, pussy. Hit me when i’m looking at you … bet i whoop your ass. I got dropped and got right back up!’ Responding to queries about the incident, the guard also tweeted, ‘Pussy grabbed … up when i wasn’t looking. He then took off when I tried to snatch him up.’”
The videos show the guard did not have his back turned when Campbell grabbed him. The students appear to be yelling at the guard, “Why you gotta instigate?”
This paper attempted several times to get information about the guard from DPS and Securitas, the private company that employs him; each attempt was ignored.
Emails to DPS about the Campbell incident and security protocol in DPS were also ignored.
According to Worthy, the guard sustained facial injuries and an open wound to the head.
Campbell turned himself in to the Detroit Public Schools Police Department prior to being arraigned the morning of Feb. 12 before Magistrate Millicent Sherman who set bail at $5000 with a 10 percent surety.
Sherman ordered Campbell not to have contact with the school. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 24.
Campbell’s attorney Jeff Edison says the teen should not be criminalized. “Our objective is that Mr. Campbell not be criminalized at all,” Edison told the Michigan Citizen. “The purpose of the (preliminary) hearing is to determine what the evidence is and if it’s enough to go to trial.
Edison said he doesn’t expect Campbell to receive special treatment.
“People are quick to say he’s a celebrity. We’re not making any excuses for him, but we don’t want him to be unnecessarily scrutinized and penalized. It cuts both ways,” he said.
Edison, a member of the National Conference of Black Lawyers, added, “there are serious and long-term consequences to the criminalization of youth, particularly in the African American community.”
“There’s no question that statistically African American youth are over prosecuted and over sentenced and therefore comprise the majority of the prison population simply because of race,” he said. “We’re always concerned — particularly (with) our youth being charged and being sucked into the criminal justice system.” The goal, he says, is that Campbell can move forward and proceed with what’s expected to be a successful future.
Edison says whenever there are alternatives to resolving conflicts and dissolving criminal charges “that’s what we certainly should strive for.”
Rev. David Bullock of the Change Agent Consortium who in the past worked with youth in Detroit said there needs to be a community conversation about what took place at Cass Tech.
“You look at that video and you see two aggressive males. There may be some procedure and protocol questions as it relates to going one-on-one with a student,” he told this reporter. “Even police — when a situation escalates — immediately call for backup. What we saw didn’t look like an adult dealing with a child; it looked like it was (two young people) outside on the street.”
More importantly, Bullock says, there’s a culture of the way students are perceived in predominately African American schools. “They’re perceived as threatening and that perception informs how a private security company engages and responds to them. I know for a fact kids at Cranbrook don’t get talked to a certain way.” Bullock says Campbell’s actions have consequences and he must be held accountable. “However, a felony charge seems excessive,” he said.
One DPS administrator agrees the charges against Campbell are excessive. “To press felony charges is too much,” says the administrator. “There is a student code of conduct (that deals with student disciplinary actions). In certain incidences you have to consider everything that happened.
“My initial reaction is juxtaposed with the killing of McKenzie Cochran (who was killed by three Northland Mall security officers Jan. 23). The attitude of security officers (needs to be addressed). Yes, we have a kid who (should expect consequences for his actions, but) I feel that the charges were too harsh. And that’s a problem in some areas. I see where people want to make a statement, but there’s more information to be gathered.”
Campbell committed in August of last year to play for Michigan State University as a freshman in 2015. A spokesperson for the MSU athletic department said she could not comment on a recruit or potential recruit.
“It’s NCAA regulation that we are unable to make any comments until they sign a letter of intent,” she told the Michigan Citizen. “For that particular student that wouldn’t be until February 2015.”