Darius Paul pleads guilty to underage drinking

Darius Paul pleads guilty to underage drinking

URBANA — A day after being suspended from the University of Illinois basketball team for the 2014-15 season, Darius Paul pleaded guilty in Champaign County Circuit Court to underage drinking.

Appearing Wednesday morning before Judge Richard Klaus, the 20-year-old sophomore forward admitted he had been drinking prior to his arrest in the early morning hours of April 22 by UI police.

In exchange for his plea to the misdemeanor offense, State’s Attorney Julia Rietz dismissed a second misdemeanor charge of resisting a peace officer alleging that Paul ran from police.

Paul was sentenced to a year of court supervision, the least serious form of punishment for the offense. Should he successfully complete the year without any legal difficulties, no conviction will enter on his record. He was also fined $325, ordered to get a substance abuse evaluation and to perform 25 hours of public service.

Paul was arrested about 3 a.m. that day after police said he was seen “acting suspiciously” in the parking lot of the South China restaurant at 25 E. Springfield Ave., C.

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Paul refused to stop to talk to officers and was tackled outside his apartment in the 100 block of East Healey Street and taken to jail. He was released within hours after posting bond.

Rietz worked out the negotiated plea agreement with Paul’s attorney, Steve Beckett of Urbana, who called the case one “about appearances.”

“No way was it resisting arrest,” said Beckett, acknowledging that he and Rietz disagree on that point. “Darius is willing to take responsibility for the other (underage drinking).”

But Rietz stood by the conduct of the UI officers involved.

“The dismissal of the resisting charge in no way is to suggest that the UI officers did anything wrong in following Darius when he ran from them. It’s simply to resolve this criminal case so that Darius can move forward and deal with his greater issues,” Rietz said.

Rietz referred to the UI police report in which Paul admitted to officers that he had failed two drug tests for marijuana administered by basketball team officials earlier in the school year.

Rietz, Beckett, Paul, and his parents, Clifford and Lynda Paul, met earlier this week with UI Police Chief Jeff Christensen, Deputy Police Chief Skip Frost and university counsel to talk about how the arrest was handled.

Paul said he’ll be heading home with his parents for the summer in the wake of his suspension.

Lynda Paul said the family is first concerned with taking care of Darius’ “spirit man” and getting him any assistance he might need to address sobriety, then will focus on his basketball career.


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Local Yocal wrote on May 14, 2014 at 11:05 am
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As predicted, gigantic leniency for the star athlete that the locals and minorities don't enjoy. Take this article into court with you next time an obstruction charge or resisting charge is leveled against your kid. Warning: unequal application of the law is standard procedure in Champaign County. 

Yay! Hear ye Future Recruits: don't worry about living in Champaign. If our officers profile you cause you look black, don't worry, Julia's got your back. Court costs will be over $300 dollars though and Mr. Beckett is mighty expensive. Maybe Julia's mentor will charge nothing for the team!

And how does that make you feel Police Union? Julia backs down, making running from you a good possibility if Beckett is the defense attorney!

Gee, how did the person(s), or bar who provided the booze to the underage Paul escape prosecution? 

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 14, 2014 at 4:05 pm

They did not get caught selling the booze.  Oh... the unfairness of life....  Fair is only a four letter word which exists in a dictionary; but not in life.

The Pauls', and their son are indicative of a middle class family whose values are being strained by a youthful mistake which others have taken on as a racial inequity cause.  Give the family privacy to settle their problems at home rather than make it into a divisive local campaign on racial inequity.  Darius Paul was not out Polar Bear Hunting, or innocently selected for arrest.