What is next for Florida Gators facing felony charges

On Monday afternoon the University of Florida police department filed sworn complaints against nine members of the Florida Gators football team. The complaints were over the student-athletes using stolen credit card information to purchase items from the University Bookstore. In total more than 62 felony complaints for more than $17,000 were sent in.

It’s important to note that the UPD does not and cannot formally charge anybody. That is not the role of law enforcement. Their job is to conduct an investigation and recommend charges based on their investigation, which they have completed and sent to the state attorney’s office.

What do these charges mean for the future of these football players? What is the process?

First: Detectives conduct an investigation.

The investigation into this issue began on August 15, 2017 when Associate Director David Looney and Electronic Technician Michael Chambers contacted UFPD officer Nakita McCarthy. According to the sworn complaints Looney told McCarthy that he had been alerted that two students were adding unusually high amounts of money to their UF Bookstore prepaid accounts (in excess of $1,500).

Looney and Chambers were alerted because of an unusual amount of “chargebacks.” A chargeback occurs when the cardholder whose card was used disputes a charge. Looney estimated the Bookstore usually deals with five “chargebacks” a year and that they had received several disputes on the accounts of Jordan Smith and a Sarita Francis. Interviews with Francis revealed that she was tied to Jordan Scarlett.

Tipped off by the two accounts, the Bookstore flagged seven other accounts, all Florida football players.

This led the University Police to begin its investigation into the matter. The investigation included interviews with victims, of which there are between 12-15 victims that had their credit card and information unlawfully stolen and used. It included going through video surveillance, investigating bank statements and connecting stolen credit cards information back to IP addresses that links back to the players that allegedly used the stolen credit card information.

Second: Investigation closed and sent to state attorney, sworn complaint/recommendation of charges

The investigation began on August 15 and concluded when the UFPD sent their investigation, sworn complaints and recommendation of charges to the State Attorney’s office.

Again, the UFPD is not responsible for nor do they have the jurisdiction to make or pursue charges. That is the job of the State Attorney, Bill Cervone, and his office.

Third: State attorney reviews the police reports and other evidence and makes a determination to file official charges (information).
The State Attorney confirmed to Gator Country that they received the investigation on the morning of Monday, September 25. The investigation, which took more than a month, is extensive. State Attorney Bill Cervone and his office will now parse through what was delivered to them. There will be information that they will need to vet or corroborate. They may need to conduct their own interviews and their own investigation.

When asked for a timeline, Cervone told Gator Country that this process could take “several weeks.” Cervone noted how long it took UFPD to conclude its investigation and the amount of information they uncovered. His office will not treat these cases hastily.

As far as the charges themselves, Cervone said that this was a “garden variety” credit card fraud case. That is not meant to downplay the allegations in this case, just to note that credit card fraud is a major issue in the state of Florida.

Cervone will go through the information, he and his office will conduct its own investigation, at which point they will make a final determination whether to pursue charges based on the evidence and information gathered.

There are two outcomes.

  1. The State Attorney’s office deems they do not have enough evidence or corroboration to pursue the charges and they don’t, which is unlikely in this case.
  2. The State Attorney’s office decides they have enough evidence at which point they file official charges (called “filing an information”)

 

Fourth: Once charges are filed that starts the court system

If an information is filed that is when the legal system begins.

An arraignment would be scheduled where the charges would be formally read to the defendants and they would enter a formal plea.

However, in most cases an attorney will file a written plea of not guilty, negating the need for an arraignment and the need for the defendant’s obligation to appear in court.

Fifth: The Court will set a “calendar call” or “status conference”
This is where lawyers will update the court whether or not they are ready to go to trial, whether they’ve reached a plea bargain or if they need a continuance.

The Rules of Florida Criminal Procedure also allows a defendant to waive their appearance at this hearing. That must be done in writing before the hearing and would be done by the defendant’s attorney.

Fifth: If lawyer/defendant wants Pre-trial diversion (PTD) the lawyer will begin negotiating with the State Attorney immediately.

There is a potential for pre-trial diversion  for the nine players that are implicated in the UFPD investigation.

Pre-trial diversion is program which allows a person to complete certain criteria in a contact with the State Attorney’s office, such as community work hours, restitution , written apology, etc.… once those criteria and obligations are met by the defendant the state would drop the case. The legal term is “nol pros.”

  • In Alachua county a defendant who has previously gone through PTD for a misdemeanor would not be excluded from going through PTD for a felony. For instance both Jordan Scarlett and Antonio Callaway have completed pre-trial diversion for previous misdemeanors, but in Alachua County, they would be allowed to enter that program for these felony charges.

The length of felony PTD is typically 12-18 months long and is very similar to being on probation. If a defendant fails to meet the criteria of their PTD charges would be reintroduced.

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC

1 COMMENT

  1. With Scarlett and Calloway likely to be early entrants into the draft, and given the protracted nature of these procedures, it is probably safe to say that their football careers are over at Florida. How much this will impact their draft status is unknown, but needless to say it will have a major impact in today’s society.

    Some NFL team will get 1st round draft pick quality in the 4th or 5th round because of this, and Scarlett and Calloway will lose a lot more than they temporarily gained by this incident. I only hope that this message is being conveyed to the rest of the players who have pro aspirations or who wish to embark into non athletic careers without a cloud hanging over their head.

    As for the other 7 players, many of whom might have demonstrated more talent and ability than the marquee names of Scarlett and Calloway, it will probably be best for them to transfer before they face disciplinary action by the school. They have lost their status on the depth chart, there are new commits coming in, and the spectre of continuing your college career with this highly publicized debacle following them around campus is probably too much to bear. The same can be said for Francis who was an innocent participant in this matter.