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.