A grand jury has declined to indict the six Kentucky football players previously facing first-degree burglary and wanton endangerment charges.
Josh Moore of the Herald-Leader was the first to break the news.
Vito Tisdale, JuTahn McClain, Andru Phillips, Earnest Sanders, Joel Williams and RJ Adams were all charged with first-degree burglary back in August, with Tisdale also charged with wanton endangerment for allegedly brandishing a firearm.
The charges stemmed from an altercation that occurred at an off-campus fraternity party back on March 7, 2021.
The six players previously plead not guilty to the charges and waived their right to a preliminary hearing in Fayette District Court on August 25.
Initial details come to light
Following the March 7 incident, the University of Kentucky placed Alpha Sigma Phi – the fraternity that hosted the party – on probation in April. The UK Office of Student Conduct then cleared all six players in June.
Despite the school clearing the players of wrongdoing, the Lexington Police Department announced first-degree burglary charges for all six players, with Tisdale also receiving a wanton endangerment charge.
The police report claimed three players allegedly entered the party thrown at a private residence uninvited and were asked to leave. The individuals became upset and threatened they would return. A short time later, the three players allegedly returned with additional subjects and forced their way into the residence. Tisdale is alleged to have pointed a firearm at an individual at the residence.
Both sides come forward
Students who purportedly attended the party spoke anonymously to WDRB, sharing details of the incident, with one witness claiming the players “just came in and started throwing punches at guys, girls, it did not matter who. They were just throwing punches to throw punches.” They claimed the entire fight lasted roughly five to 10 minutes before the police were called and the party was broken up.
Other UK students who claimed to be at the party then spoke to the Courier-Journal, one alleging Andru Phillips struck her twice, once on the arm and once on the hip during the altercation. Her account, though, does not match the one in the UK Office of Student Conduct’s report about the incident. UK Office of Student Conduct Assistant Director Libby Hogan cleared Phillips of any wrongdoing in April.
WKYT then obtained documents from UK through an open-records request, including a letter from one of the players to the UK Office of Student Conduct. The player, whose name is redacted, claims he and his teammate feared for their lives after encountering racial slurs at the party.
“I completely and undoubtedly deny any allegations that I threatened, harmed or caused any harm to anyone at this party that night,” a football player whose name was redacted wrote in a letter dated April 20 and sent to UK’s student responsibility coordinator. “I was the victim of a ‘hate crime’ that I will be following up and filing charges with the city of Lexington soon.”
In the letter, the person describes a young lady screaming “get these fu[redacted] N[redacted] out of here,” with more than a dozen other guys coming up to them, pushing them and calling them “black a[redacted] N[redacted]”, “P[redacted] a[redacted] N[redacted]” and more.
“This was a very traumatic experience for me, something I never had to endure in my lifetime,” the letter reads. “All I could think about is my life and getting out of that house.”
In its final report, the UK Office of Student Conduct Hearing Board agreed that the use of racial slurs played a “significant role” in the events at the party and caused the escalation of the fight.
Cleared to practice
After 18 weeks away from practice, all six players were officially cleared to return to the field this week. LEX18’s Anna Maria Tarullo broke the news Monday evening that Tisdale, McClain, Phillips, Sanders, Williams and Adams were all back with the team and eligible to return to practice.
UK Athletics has since confirmed that all six players are eligible to return immediately.
Leading up to the players’ return, Mark Stoops said he had to “trust the system” and remain patient as the legal process played out.
“I appreciate the university and the way they went through a thorough investigation and cleared our players and the way they went about it and gave them a fair process. I greatly appreciate them,” he said. “… We have been patient. Our players have been patient and you have to trust the system; that gets hard. Our players have been out a long time. … I have to believe in this system.”
Back to full strength
With all six players cleared to return to both practice and the games, Kentucky is now officially back at full strength. Now the question is when they’ll make their season debuts for the Wildcats.
Despite being eligible to return, they did miss the entirety of fall camp and all in-season practices. It will likely be a process getting them back up to game speed.
When their number is called, though, all six will now be available. UK has its complete roster to work with now and the remainder of the season.
Note: An earlier version of this article stated the grand jury dismissed the players’ charges, citing the Lexington Herald-Leader’s initial report. It was later reported that the grand jury declined to indict the six players. The article has been updated to reflect these changes.