Probation for former Illini football player

Probation for former Illini football player

URBANA — One of three former University of Illinois football players charged last year with robbing a fellow residence hall student has been given a chance to escape a criminal record.

Zarrian Holcombe, 20, who was a freshman from Houston, Texas, in 2017, pleaded guilty Tuesday before Judge Tom Difanis to theft from person.

As a result of a plea agreement negotiated by Holcombe's attorney, Mike Zopf, and Assistant State's Attorney Troy Lozar, Holcombe was sentenced to two years of second chance probation.

Under the provisions of that statute, Holcombe is convicted of the Class 3 felony but if he successfully completes the terms of his probation and does not commit any further crimes, then no judgment will be entered against him.

Such pleas are common in cases where the defendant is young and has no prior criminal convictions.

Holcombe admitted that on May 10, 2017, he joined with co-defendants Darta Lee and Howard Watkins, both 19, to steal less than $500 from a man who was living in Bromley Hall at 910 S. Third St. Holcombe, Lee and Watkins also lived there.

The resident reported that three masked men entered his room about 3:20 a.m. that Wednesday. One pulled what was believed to be a fake gun and demanded cash. The victim recognized the voice of one of the men, which eventually led Champaign police to all three.

They were initially charged with residential burglary and aggravated robbery. Holcombe spent 41 days in jail before someone posted bond for him in June. In January, Lozar filed another lesser count of criminal trespass to residence against Holcombe.

Those three charges were all dismissed, and he pleaded guilty to the theft charge Lozar filed a week ago.

As part of his sentence, Holcombe will also have to perform 30 hours of public service and have no contact with the victim.

He, Watkins and Lee were all dismissed from the football team by Coach Lovie Smith in the wake of their criminal charges.

Zopf said Holcombe is now playing football on a scholarship at Prairie View A&M, in Prairie View, Texas.

Watkins' criminal case is back in court April 17 while Lee's is scheduled for May 8.

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BruckJr wrote on March 20, 2018 at 2:03 pm

That'll teach him, Tom.  Let's pass some more gun laws that the judges will refuse to enforce.

champaign61821 wrote on March 20, 2018 at 4:03 pm

Who cares? He was already from out of state, and now he is leaving the state to go to a different college. Why add another person to the IL justice system that we taxpayes would have to pay for? Seems like an appropriate punishment to me. wrote on March 20, 2018 at 2:03 pm

What a surprise.   Not

JamBam wrote on March 22, 2018 at 5:03 pm

41 days time served for breaking into an apartment, holding someone at gun point (at least they thought it was a gun) and robbing them.

41 days....

41 days....

As Brucks said, tougher laws are useless when we have judges/prosecutors that will willingly let violent crime go virtually unpunished.

And lmao at the "he's from out of state" excuse.  What a great message to send to criminals.  Come to Champaign, where you can rob people and you'll either get away with it, or get off with no record of it ever happening.  

Until Champaign County elects Republican prosectors and Republican Judges, this county will continue to be "catch and release".  The democrats in power get all their votes from blacks.  Can't be sentencing black criminals to long sentences because it'll anger their voting bloc.  It's sickening.

camirome wrote on March 23, 2018 at 10:03 am

All of the Circuit Judges serving in Champaign County are Republican.  The only local circuit judge who was a democrat was Arnold Blackman, who heard family law cases.  After he retired the Supreme Court appointed Roger Webber, who is running as a Republican.  Judge Difanis, Judge Ladd, and Judge Ford all have always run as Republican.  Judges Webber, Rosenbaum, and Bohm were all appointed and are running or have public stated they will run as Republicans. 

Local Yocal wrote on March 23, 2018 at 11:03 am
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Blacks not affiliated with the university's athletic program do get long sentences. This case reflects the long-standing practice in Champaign County of going easy on U of I athletes.