Smith charged with two felonies
The Champaign County State's Attorney's Office filed charges Tuesday against Jamar Smith following the University of Illinois Police Department's investigation of his Feb. 12 accident that left Brian Carlwell in critical condition.
Smith, a sophomore guard on the Illinois basketball team, is charged with one count of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol, a class 4 felony, and one count of leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, a class 3 felony.
The police investigation revealed Smith was drinking tequila and beer with Carlwell and others before the two left in Smith's 1996 Lexus and headed North on First Street at 11 p.m.
Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz could not confirm where Smith was headed. Smith, whose blood alcohol content was later determined to be .176, more than two times the legal limit, lost control of the vehicle, crossed the center lane and hit a tree on the passenger side.
"This was a case of extremely poor judgment by Jamar," head coach Bruce Weber said in a formal statement. "Now the legal process must run its course. Our program will continue to support Jamar as he deals with this situation."
Smith, 19, drove the damaged vehicle back to College Fields Apartments on South First Street in Savoy, where two witnesses saw "a tall man" exit the car and enter the apartment building. The witnesses also saw an unconscious passenger in the vehicle. The tall man and a second man, whose identity is unknown, later returned to the car before re-entering the building. The witnesses dialed 911, but no other 911 calls were made.
Sheriff's deputies and University Police arrived on the scene and found Carlwell unconscious in the vehicle. Smith, who originally believed Carlwell had died in the crash, was found in his apartment with a number of other basketball team members and taken to Carle Foundation Hospital at 1 a.m.
"Based on the investigation, it appears that he went into his apartment and there were a number of other people there," Rietz said. "It appears he was very distraught."
"There were other people there who have been interviewed," Rietz said. "I'm not releasing the names of witnesses."
Smith was treated and released early Tuesday morning, and results of a drug test are still pending. Carlwell remained in hospital care until Friday.
An aggravated DUI charge is punishable by one to 12 years in the Department of Corrections, Rietz said. It is a greater offense than a regular DUI, which is a misdemeanor, because a personal injury occurred in the accident. The charge of leaving the scene is a result of Smith's failure to report the accident within one half hour of the crash. It is punishable by two to five years in prison.
On Wednesday Smith's family hired attorney Mark Lipton, who is also representing senior Rich McBride in his DUI case. McBride is due to appear in court on March 1. Lipton's office has not issued a statement and declined to comment.
Assistant Athletic Director Kent Brown said Smith returned to campus Sunday night and attended class on Tuesday. Smith and Weber agreed it would be in the sophomore's best interest to miss the remainder of the 2007 season. Weber made it clear that it was not a suspension, and Brown said it is still not being labeled as such.
"He remains a part of our family and needs us now more than ever," Weber said. "The most important thing is that both young men are alive, and that Brian is expected to make a full recovery."
Bond is set at $10,000 and Rietz said she expects Smith to surrender himself. No court date has been set.