Glenn Guilbeau / GANNETT LOUISIANA
BATON ROUGE For the second straight year, an arrested and suspended LSU football player returned to the team just in time for the first day of practice.
Junior defensive back Jalen Mills of DeSoto, Texas, near Dallas was reinstated by LSU coach Les Miles on Monday hours after East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore reduced Mills' original felony second degree battery charge by Baton Rouge Police to a misdemeanor simple battery charge. Moore's office investigated the case over the last two months.
Mills, who started the last two seasons at cornerback for the Tigers before moving into a starting role at safety last spring, practiced Monday afternoon.
'We'll continue to discipline him in house, but he's back with the team,' said Miles, who indefinitely suspended Mills shortly after Mills was arrested and charged on June 10 with second degree battery of a woman at his apartment complex near campus on May 4. Mills, 20, spent the night of June 10 and part of June 11 in jail before being bailed out by his family for $10,000. Witnesses at the apartment complex, however, told Mills' attorney Brent Stockstill that another woman hit the victim.
Stockstill plans to have Mills, 20, plead not guilty to the simple battery charge at his arraignment, which is expected to be in a few weeks.
'I believe in trial we will prove Jalen's innocence,' Stockstill said Monday.
'He was not charged as initially, and so misdemeanor being what it is, we're moving forward,' Miles said after his team's second practice Monday. University policy at LSU dictates that student-athletes charged with a felony not be allowed to participate in athletics.
'After an entire summer of suspension, we felt like while this thing was still being decided that we'd bring him on to the team,' Miles said.
In similar fashion, Miles immediately returned then-quarterback Jordan Jefferson to the LSU team in 2011 after his original felony battery charge was reduced to a misdemeanor battery charge. A year ago Tuesday, LSU tailback Jeremy Hill was reinstated to the team after he received probation and no jail time on Aug. 5, 2013, following a misdemeanor simple battery charge that violated his probation from a previous misdemeanor carnal knowledge charge. His indefinite suspension that had lasted all summer was immediately lifted by Miles, and he practiced that afternoon.
Miles said he had not decided if Mills would be suspended or not for LSU's season opener against Wisconsin in Houston on Aug. 30 or for any other games or parts of games.
'No, none of those things,' he said. 'Again, it's all going to be internal anyway.'
Miles suspended Hill for the season opener and for the first quarter of LSU's second game last season, though he never announced that decision and said only that Hill was 'withheld from play.' Hill later admitted he was suspended for the first five quarters of the 2013 season.
Moore defended his decision to reduce the charges against Mills later Monday.
'This is the charge that we believe is appropriate after reviewing the evidence and reports,' Moore said. 'It is what the law calls for under these circumstances and facts. The police made an arrest of second degree battery. That was not a formal charge by our office.'
For Mills' original felony charge to stick, Moore's office had to believe he intended to inflict serious bodily injury.
'I have to prove that any defendant has the specific intent to cause anyone of those injuries or conditions,' Moore said. 'In this case, similar to the Jordan Jefferson and hundreds of other fights/batteries, I cannot. There is no specific provision for man versus woman except for domestic violence or family situations, which this is not.'
Stockstill was partially pleased with the district attorney's decision.
'I think the DA's decision was a step in the right direction,' Stockstill said. 'I do not think it went far enough.'
LSU defensive back returns to team after battery charge reduced to a misdemeanor
Glenn Guilbeau / GANNETT LOUISIANA