COLUMBIA, S.C. - Burglary charges against former South Carolina standout Moe Thompson should be dropped, his lawyer said Friday, because the defensive lineman was treated differently by the school because he is black.
According to a motion filed in Richland County by attorney Hemphill Pride, Thompson and teammate Kevin Mainord, who were both charged with taking televisions from dormitory rooms, thought they were in their teammates' rooms and were taking the TVs as part of a prank after a night of partying.
If convicted of the charges, Thompson faces 15 years to life in prison.
Prosecutor Barney Giese wouldn't comment on the motion because he doesn't talk about pending cases, said Babs Lindsay in his office.
Thompson and Mainord were charged after the February incident and both were later dismissed from the football team by South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. Earlier this month, a judge changed Thompson's bond conditions to allow him to continue his football career at Grambling State.
Thompson was a three-year starter at South Carolina. He had 24 tackles and three sacks in 11 games last season.
Pride said Thompson was enrolled in the historically black college in Louisiana, but it was unclear if he was practicing with the team. A telephone message left for Grambling coach Melvin Spears by The Associated Press was not immediately returned Friday.
The motion filed Friday also said Thompson's prank was similar to one that occurred in October, when a metal ball atop the Maxcy monument in the University of South Carolina's famous Horseshoe area was taken by student Ben Springer and some friends as a prank after a night of partying.
University police were notified and referred the incident to the school's Student Judicial Council. The council ordered Springer, who is white, to serve 15 hours of community service.
"They certainly didn't treat the white boy the same way they treated" Thompson, Pride said. "African-Americans, and certainly my client, do not expect preferential treatment, but we do expect parity."
University of South Carolina spokesman Russ McKinney said: "It's regrettable that Mr. Pride is attempting to bring race into this matter, but due to the fact that the case is pending in court, we will have no further comment."
Springer, an international studies junior, told The Associated Press Friday that he was studying in Spain last semester when the Feb. 22 incident occurred, but that he didn't think it was similar to his case.
"I just don't really think that the two situations are all that closely related and I mean, I would hope that race wouldn't come into issue at all, in any situation like this," the 20-year-old Springer said. "I'm of the opinion that race shouldn't be an issue in any situation."
Pride said the situations are similar, even citing an interview one of the victims in Thompson's case did with Columbia television station WLTX in which the woman said she had been a victim of a prank.
"This person took a chisel and a hammer and took a piece of property that is priceless and unique. What he took is of greater value than what my client took, but taking in terms of criminal law doesn't make any difference," Pride said. "What my client thought he was doing, he thought he was going into another football player's room."
Springer said when he and a friend took the ball there was no damage to the monument, and though they brought a toolbox, his friend just unscrewed the ball. They later replaced the ball after hearing concerns from school officials and students.
Pride said Thompson returned the television sets after being confronted by university police.
Thompson also included in his motion a letter from university board trustee Tony Lister, who asked school President Andrew Sorensen several questions regarding incidents involving South Carolina football players. He also asked about how much damage was done to the monument when the ball was stolen.