UI's Smith charged with DUI, leaving accident scene
URBANA – Felony charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and leaving the scene of an accident were filed this morning against University of Illinois basketball player Jamar Smith.
The 19-year-old sophomore from Peoria left the team last week in the wake of a crash late on Feb. 12 that left his fellow teammate Brian Carlwell, 19, of Maywood, severely injured with a concussion. Carlwell was hospitalized until Friday.
Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz sought a warrant for Smith's arrest, which Judge Tom Difanis signed. Difanis set bond at $10,000.
Smith's attorney, Mark Lipton of Champaign, learned of the felony charges late this morning and declined to comment on the additional charges. UI police had initially ticketed Smith with improper lane usage.
Rietz said from reviewing the reports compiled by UI police, Smith and Carlwell had been drinking beer and tequila earlier that evening at a woman's apartment in the College Fields complex in Savoy where Smith lives.
Sometime after 11 p.m., the two left in Smith's 1996 Lexus and were headed north on South First Street in Champaign when Smith left the 2000 block of South First Street, north of the UI Employees Credit Union. Tire tracks left in the snow show he crossed the southbound lanes and struck a tree, a police report said.
Rietz said Smith then drove the car, badly damaged on the passenger side, back to the College Fields complex at the southwest corner of First Street and Curtis Road.
"There were two girls in the parking lot who saw the damaged car pull in the parking lot, saw a tall man in UI sweats get out and go inside. They saw an unconscious individual in the car. They then saw the tall man come back out with someone else, approach the car, then both went back in and the young women called 911," Rietz said.
Rietz said the call to the METCAD dispatching center was received at 11:41 p.m.
"There were no other 911 calls," Rietz said.
Carlwell was taken to Carle Foundation Hospital for treatment of his injuries after having to be cut out of the car, police said.
Smith, however, went in his own apartment, where "a number of other basketball team members were present," Rietz said, declining to reveal who they were. He remained there for about two hours before he too went to Carle for treatment of a slight concussion.
"There was no evidence he drank anything in the apartment after the crash," Rietz said. "It appears Smith was distraught and upset at the fact that he thought Carlwell was dead."
Rietz said a state crime lab test done on blood drawn from Smith at the hospital shows his blood alcohol level was 0.17 percent, more than twice the limit for an Illinois motorist to be presumed intoxicated. Illinois also has a zero tolerance law for anyone under the age of 21 who is caught with any amount of alcohol in his or her system.
She said alcohol was the only chemical for which he was tested.
Because of the "great bodily harm" to Carlwell, Smith could face an extended term of one to 12 years in prison if convicted of the DUI charge. Probation is also an option.
The leaving the scene of a personal injury accident charge alleges that he not only left the scene but failed within 30 minutes to report the incident.
That is a Class 3 felony carrying penalties ranging from probation to two to five years in prison upon conviction.
Illinois coach Bruce Weber could not be reached for comment late this morning. The Illini were to practice in advance of Wednesday's final home game, an 8 p.m. start against Michigan.
Weber on Friday said in a statement that Smith would not play the rest of the season.
"It has been mutually agreed upon between myself and Jamar Smith and his family, that he sit out the remainder of this season so that he can focus all of his attention on the physical, emotional, academic and other related issues he will face in the coming weeks," the statement read. "As I said Wednesday, this is a very difficult time for Jamar. Our coaches, players and program will continue to support him as he deals with this situation."
The Illini have three regular season games and the Big Ten tournament remaining. It is likely they'll receive a bid to either the NCAA tournament or the NIT.
Smith, a 6-foot-3 News-Gazette All-Stater from Peoria Richwoods, averaged 8.1 points, 1.9 assists and 1.6 rebounds in 21 games. The guard missed six games with an ankle injury.
Smith is the second Illini to face charges this season.
Senior Rich McBride was arrested for driving while intoxicated on Sept. 29, when he was driving his car erratically on South First Street about 2 a.m. McBride's case is set for March 1 before Champaign County traffic Judge Rich Klaus.