Georgia defensive tackle Julian Rochester has entered into a pretrial diversion program that when completed would result in charges being dismissed stemming from a BB gun incident on campus in April 2016.
“It wasn’t something we wouldn’t have done with other folks, non-athletes, who happen to wind up with some sort of weapon on campus,” Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney Ken Mauldin said. “These were like CO2 BB guns.”
Rochester waived a formal arraignment and pleaded guilty June 21 to criminal damage to property in the second degree, a felony, and a charge of carrying weapons in an unauthorized location, a misdemeanor, under a plea agreement. That second charge Rochester pled to was instead of an initial felony charge of having a weapon in a school safety zone.
“We had an agreement where he pled to the other felony – the criminal damage to property,” Mauldin said. “We felt like that would be the fair thing. If he completes it, it doesn’t really matter because it will all be dismissed. If he doesn’t, he’ll be brought back and sentenced. The ball’s in his court.”
The length of the pretrial program is 12 months, according to Kim Stephens, Rochester’s attorney. Stephens asked for documents from the case to be sealed, which Mauldin said he opposed, but the judge allowed under an order dated July 13. Stephens said the law allows for first offender sentences and conditional discharge sentences that will result in dismissal to be sealed.
“From my perspective, pretrial diversion is actually a lesser sanction,” Stephens said. “My practice now in all pretrial cases is to ask the judge to seal the record.”
That’s so future employment or school admission wouldn’t be affected by a case that was dismissed, he said.
Rochester’s record will be “restricted,” when the program concludes, meaning nobody except law enforcement, the courts, or some governmental agencies will be able to see it. He had to pay a program fee of up to $300, will have to perform community service and avoid another arrest.
Police said Rochester, now entering his sophomore season, and then Georgia teammate Chad Clay used a BB gun to damage up to $1,085 worth of property at their East Campus Village dorm room on April 7, 2016.
Rochester did not serve any game suspension for the incident.
“Julian has done everything we’ve asked him to do,” coach Kirby Smart said last August.
Georgia did not respond for comment on Rochester entering the pretrial program, but Stephens said he would be “shocked and surprised” if Rochester is disciplined now because he already completed about 100 hours of community service last year and had to move off campus as required under university and athletic department sanctions.
He said Rochester isn’t expected to be able to count those hours as part of his pretrial community service, but should conclude his new requirement by the end of the summer.
Clay’s case remains in the judicial system. He was arrested again in June 2016 on a theft charge for allegedly taking headphones at the Ramsey Center. That prompted his dismissal by Georgia. He then attended Butler Community College before transferring to Marshall.