Exclusive: Paul family's 'difficult and disheartening times'

URBANA — Cliff Paul Sr., his wife Lynda Paul, and their son Darius Paul agreed to meet with The News-Gazette after Paul's guilty plea Wednesday morning to set the record straight, as best they could, about what happened during their son's arrest by University of Illinois police on April 22.

In an exclusive interview, the Paul family and their lawyer, Steve Beckett of Urbana, said their main reason for speaking out was to address a supplemental University of Illinois police report that Beckett said had nothing to do with Paul's arrest for underage drinking.

That two-page report said a plastic bag found on the ground near where police tackled and handcuffed Paul field-tested positive for the presence of cocaine residue.

Beckett said during a meeting with UI officials Tuesday, the family was told that in response to Freedom of Information requests from media outlets, the UI would have to release every portion of the police reports generated in Paul's case.

"We were very upset. We felt it had nothing to do with this case," said Beckett of the plastic bag report.

In Tuesday's meeting, which Beckett characterized as a "great question and answer session" were: Cliff Paul, Lynda Paul and Darius Paul; Beckett; UI Police Chief Jeff Christensen; Deputy UI Police Chief Skip Frost; UI Police Capt. Roy Acree; State's Attorney Julia Rietz; and Associate University Counsel Rhonda Perry.

Rietz, who reviewed the reports for charging, agreed with Beckett's assessment on the plastic bag.

"There's no evidence other than the location of the bag to directly link it to Darius. I never intended on filing charges related to that. They (police) did not include that in their charges or as the basis for the arrest. They just felt they needed to document what they found at the scene. There isn't any evidence linking it to Darius," Rietz said.

Speaking from prepared remarks, Cliff Paul talked about that report as well as other feelings the family is experiencing.

"As a family we want to address the speculation that will naturally come from the release of the police reports. Our sons have nothing to do with cocaine. It is unfortunate that a plastic bag found on the ground in the neighborhood of Darius' encounter had to be tied to the reports in this case. This report had nothing to do with his conduct that night," he said.

"These have been difficult and disheartening times for our family. Lynda and I have raised our children to be respectful and personally responsible. As all parents would be, we were disappointed when we learned that our son used poor judgment. It would come as no surprise that we have told our children that being out in the late hours of the day, not taking care of yourself and consuming alcohol as well can only get you in trouble.

"As a career police officer, it is always troubling to me if someone shows disrespect to the police in any way. I have talked with our son about the choices he made that night and what police officers might think when put in the position the officers on the street that night were put."

The elder Paul thanked Christensen for his willingness to meet with them "to answer our questions and address the natural concerns that parents would have under the facts of this case."

Paul said he's been an officer with the Buffalo Grove Police Department for 18 years. He and his wife have been married 29 years and Darius Paul is the youngest of their three sons. Cliff Paul Jr. is 25 and Brandon Paul is 23.

"I obviously support police officers. I don't agree with everything that happened. I don't agree with the stop," said Cliff Paul.

Beckett said the police reports indicate one white male and two black males were walking in the area of a restaurant parking lot just east of the viaduct on Springfield Avenue at 3 a.m.

"They (police) focus on a white guy walking and two black guys walking after him. People are going to make things of that," Beckett said, adding that the officers said their concern was for the man being followed and later for Paul.

"They follow Darius. Nobody follows the white guy. The white guy just disappears. Is there fodder there for people? Sure. We are trying to get beyond that. We really are. The real focus is for Darius. He was out at 3 a.m. He was drinking. He shouldn't have been. When your parents tell you you shouldn't be doing that, that's the focus ... because stuff can happen. Here we are. It isn't about some law school question about whether the police were right or wrong," Beckett said.

Cliff and Lynda Paul agreed that their son made mistakes that he needed to learn from and that the family is indebted to the UI basketball coaching staff.

"Obviously we love the coaching staff. It is obvious we love the University of Illinois," she said, wiping back tears. "Darius has made mistakes. He's made a couple of mistakes. It's unfortunate but we have nothing but the highest regard for the coaching staff, the administrative staff, (athletic director) Mike Thomas. They have been extremely supportive. Our focus right now is to see what kind of assistance we can get for Darius, to take care of his spirit man, ... then we will address if there is any issue with sobriety and then we will address the basketball."

"Ultimately, for Lynda and me, our concern is for our son. We want Darius to learn from all of his life's experiences and we want him to grow as a person, and to be a better person as a result of those experiences — even if they are mistakes that he made. We can see from the underage drinking charge that Darius must address issues that many students must address about consumption of alcohol. As a family. we will continue to support him and help him address those issues," Cliff Paul said.

"We have a long-standing relationship with the University of Illinois and the basketball family here. We appreciate Coach (John) Groce's need to be vigilant not only for Darius, but for everyone on the basketball team. Our sons have had good educational and sports opportunities here. It is our hope that Darius will return and complete his college career here. We will do all that is possible for that to happen," the elder Paul said.

However, Lynda Paul said she wasn't sure when that would happen.

"Since this is really fresh, we haven't decided what we're going to do," she said.

Darius Paul did not directly answer how long he may have used marijuana.

The police report also makes reference to a discussion between Paul and a man who approached him, offering to sell him "DMT," a psychedelic compound that acts as an hallucinogenic if ingested.

"This was a stranger that came up to him," said Lynda Paul. "The only reason he (Darius) probably engaged in the conversation is because he (the stranger) mentioned his (Darius') girlfriend. Darius emphatically said no."

Lynda Paul said her son was familiar with what the drug was but did not want to buy it.

"I didn't know what his motives were. I thought he was trying to set me up," Darius Paul said of the stranger, who police never found.

Asked why he was out at 3 a.m., Paul said: "It was personal. I was out wandering, which I shouldn't have done. I should have been home."

In prepared remarks, Paul apologized to his family, his coaches and teammates and the police.

"I appreciate the job the police officers have to do. I've watched my dad as I've grown up. I remember when I was younger that he would have to work nights and I was worried about him. This incident shows that I overreacted to the police and the things that happened on that street," he said.

"Being out drinking with friends seems like fun, but look where I'm at now. I can only hope others can see how the choices we make as students can impact our lives," he said.

Comments

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BruckJr wrote on May 14, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Lynda Paul's version certainly differs from the version printed in the Chicago Tribune today.

1IlliniFan wrote on May 14, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Wow, I took this story at face value - but it did't add up that Paul was suspended for the entire season.  Then search for the related Chicago Tribune story.  The Chicago Tribune DOES tell a much different story. 

trysomethingnew wrote on May 14, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Illinois mine as well suspend all searching for black recruits. This story is going to stick out like a sore thumb to every potential black basketball prospect. The police, the States Attorney, everyone in this situation is come off ridiculously racist. I'm so sorry that everyone views Champaign as racist. I know that's not true. But how do you change it when the people on charge continue to do racist things? This whole thing was blown out of proportion because of power happy U of I rent a cops. Sad. I'm sure you don't have to worry about Darius Paul every coming back. Shiver. 

Joe American wrote on May 15, 2014 at 10:05 am

1.  "Illinois 'might as well' or 'may as well'...."

2.  ".....everyone in this situation 'is coming off' as' or 'comes off as'...."

3.  ".....the people 'in' charge....."

4.  They're really NOT rent-a-cops, although I know that claim has always been a cheap shot taken by just about every drunken college student.

5.  ".....about Darius Paul 'ever' coming back.".  You may be correct, but he stated (in an article published at the NG yesterday) that he does, in fact, want to return. And he expressed his remorse for his actions. Classy kid, and I hope he does return.

Local Yocal wrote on May 15, 2014 at 11:05 am
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How is it the person(s) or bar who supplied the underage Darius the alcohol escapes prosecution?

I doubt the Pauls will send their son back to a town that has a police publicity department fueling fires in the local media over a very routine and common occurrance on campuses all over the country.

Why were you out at 3:00 a.m.? Really? Curfew for adults? 

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 15, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Maybe, he will tell who supplied him with alcohol?  It is a routine, and common occurrance on campuses all over the country.  It must be a national police conspiracy!!  It is an evil plan to discredit, and harrass all black atheletes!!  It must be racial discrimination.  Do caucasian students ever get arrested for underage drinking?  

By the way; when did the police publicity department fuel the fires in the local media?  It seemed to be the comments from the community that fueled fires.  Young Mr. Paul is being used by those who have their own personal gripes against the community, and local law enforcement.

Oh, the inhumanity of it all..... Kilgore being picked on, and a young athlete being harrassed.....  When will the community learn to just follow the opinions of the university intellectuals, and have no opinions of their own?  Professors must have more intelligence in ALL things than the non-intellectuals.  The non-intellectuals only have common sense to rely on. 

Quickly, quickly, sign a petition and give it to the administration before leaving town for the summer vacation.  

Danno wrote on May 15, 2014 at 3:05 pm

That seems to be the illustrating point in the 'Gap' (conudrum?) in Academic Freedom; there is no Horror, Moral Terror or, Absolute Depravity...'that would mean we have to 'fire/let go' of someone (oh no, that seems so 'harsh').' Here: Lose the nepotist 'victim'; keep the basketball 'victim.' Wait...just dump 'em as they occur.

Local Yocal wrote on May 16, 2014 at 11:05 am
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"Quickly, quickly, sign a petition and give it to the administration before leaving town for the summer vacation."

Now that is darn funny, solid material there. You do keep it entertaining, Mr. Saltfork.

The News-Gazette would be glad to tell you that a late night arrest like the kind Mr. Paul experienced, usually comes to their attention through the U of I police department or State's Attorney's office. The running from the police probably became an opportunity for law enforcement to remind the citizenry that's a big no-no, hence the public criminal charges and notifying the media.The notoriety of the suspect and the impact his arrest has on the local economy (winning teams and future recruits) might have also been a consideration to contacting the media where the local criminal justice system wanted to get out in front of the media's inquiry to prove quickly in the court of public opinion police and Her Majesty were justified in prosecuting the athlete.  

Again, the entire episode reveals what sparks police to approach people, (Beckett notes the white guy was left alone,) the lack of people-problem-solving skills officers possess (police could have just made sure Paul made it home safely, instead of arresting him.) and how "special people" get "special favors" come prosecuting time.   

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 16, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Caught because of underage drinking, escorted home, and non-arrest seems to be how "special people get special favors" to me.  Running away from a police officer is a "big no-no" when walking around private property at 3:40 a.m. regardless of age, race, or gender.  When a police officer tells you to stop running from him, it is not to "remind the citizenry".

I respect some of your comments, and views; but whenever the police, or Julia Reitz are involved, you seem to have a grudge.  Young Mr. Paul failed two drug tests this year.  He admitted that he had attempted to buy illicit drugs from a "stranger" in an alley.  He was caught underage drinking.  To say that a negative impact on the local economy (winning teams and future recruits) will result is just more "special people get special favors".  The U of I has since the inception of it's athletic programs faced the problem of young athletes being arrested.  It is not just the U of I either.  It happens nationally.  To accuse the police, and the State's Attorney of racism in Champaign County is ignoring the common problem of young adults experiencing illegal substances even alcohol.

Sorry; but I think your grasping at straws on this one.  Do enjoy your summer though.     

Local Yocal wrote on May 17, 2014 at 11:05 am
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No arrest for underage drinking is what the white kids usually enjoy from U of I police every night. The most they ever get, if it's Operation Tap Night, is a municipal ordinance violation. 

Running from police doesn't always need an arrest. Paul is drunk and making bad decisions, non of which harmed officers.* Officers could have talked it through and did some problem solving, like they often do with the white kids. An escort home enhances public safety just the same at less cost to you and I. You'll notice officers made no attempt to find the white kid who also ran, and might be why 'ol Julia swept the fleeing and eluding charge under the rug lest Beckett affirm a defense of selective enforcement.

Without going down the 'ol road with you again about the drug war, you know I disagree that cops, arrests, lawyers, prosecutions, fines, and jailing are the best techniques to address substance abuse. Legal Prohibition just makes everything worse.

*Before assuming officers were in no physical danger by giving chase to Paul, I'd rather see The Sun Times article to get better facts. Even better, the public should see the actual police report now that a verdict has been rendered, which The State's Attorney will never give Marcus Jackson of the N-G.

And a pleasant summer to you too, Mr. Saltfork.

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 17, 2014 at 8:05 pm

More of the racial rant about one race getting off while another is convicted?  I noticed your reference to "white" in your comments on the young Daly woman's sentence.  Why not make the rant toward the economically well-off, and justice rather than race?  Is it too difficult rather than make the simple accusastion that "white kids" get special treatment?  There are many "white" families who feel that justice is only what a defendent can afford.  You made a comment regarding the cost of attorney Beckett for the Paul family; but you make the huge assumption that "white kids" get off.  All "white" families must be connected, or wealthy according to your simple logic.  It is a question of economics, not race.

I do look forward to a pleasant summer when the university is almost empty.  It is always more pleasant when the simple answer intellectuals leave town.  C-U does not need more inflamatory rhetoric regarding race during the hot summers.

 

Local Yocal wrote on May 20, 2014 at 2:05 pm
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"Why not make the rant toward the economically well-off, and justice rather than race?"

Because police and prosecutors make race and low-income their preferred target.

Forget the ideals taught in the high school civics class, (otherwise, you'd insist the public defender's office had sufficient resources to handle the case load) the system is dictated by a small group of well-off, highly educated white people who have zero empathy for "the other, lessor races/poor people."

That's why the disparity numbers are skewed as they are.

But here's what would be EVEN BETTER than bloggers just firing off their experential opinions: let's have an objective study as to what is happening!

Nah, that would actually discover the truth and besides, all the intellectuals have left town. There's no better place to have a Jim Crow Courthouse than a college town.

See Michelle Alexander's 2011 book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration during the Age of Colorblindness, for details.

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 20, 2014 at 8:05 pm

So many of us wish that summer break was twelve months a year instead of three months............  It would end the "small group of well-off, highly educated white people" dictating simple solutions from a "selected" reading list.  Until that time; those who stayed on through the summer could march up, and down Green Street after midnight seeking converts.

Local Yocal wrote on May 21, 2014 at 10:05 am
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"...the "small group of well-off, highly educated white people" dictating simple solutions..."

Indeed, race and income are what the police and prosecutors use as the simple solution to fill the overbuilt prison industry jail cells. As seen in the Katheryn Daly DUI case, actual "justice" or healing from a tragedy is far more complicated. Particularly in the exchange between the two posters under the Daly thread who discuss the DUI involving the injured fireman, we see the many complicated sides when two "objects" collide, and a third party must decide whose fault it is, and how to punish them for it. It's never easy.

The criminal justice system's actors tend to react to race and income(employment) to decide whether a defendant deserves punishment or mercy. It's so simple for them using their preferences and biases as their guide.

Former Supreme Court Attorney Michelle Alexander's book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness from 2011, does an outstanding job of providing the history, the laws that were changed, the practices that were implemented, and the devasting statistics that result when simple solutions are applied to human beings by the criminal justice system.

I hope your efforts to find converts to fully fund and staff the public defender's office is successful.