Updated: UI football official facing gun charges
Update at 4:50 p.m. Monday.
CHAMPAIGN — In a statement on Monday, Fighting Illini head football coach Tim Beckman said a football staff member's actions were clear lapse in judgment, but the team is still gathering information.
“We’re aware of the current situation concerning staff member Matt Sinclair,” Beckman said. “He clearly had a lapse in judgment after returning to Champaign-Urbana on Saturday. He is in the early stages of the legal process. We’re still gathering all the information about the incident and I don’t intend to comment further at this time.”
Original story, posted at 1:26 p.m. Monday.
URBANA — The assistant director of player personnel and relations for the University of Illinois football team was arraigned in Champaign County court Monday after allegedly pointing an unloaded gun at another vehicle on Interstate 74.
Matthew Sinclair, 31, played linebacker for the Illini from 2001 to 2004 and was hired earlier this year as a football staff member. According to a police report, he was arrested around 4 p.m. Saturday after a driver behind Sinclair saw him point the gun out the window. The witness called 911.
Police pulled over Sinclair near Green Street after he exited at Lincoln Avenue, according to the report, and found an unloaded gun in the center console of his pickup truck, a magazine loaded with 16 rounds of ammunition in the driver's side door pocket and a set of brass knuckles.
When reached Monday afternoon, Sinclair declined comment.
Sinclair, who was returning from Purdue University after Saturday's football game, told police he had the gun with him for protection.
"He said he had the gun because he was going to Purdue and needed it for protection," said Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz.
Rietz said other staff members from the team were in the car beside Sinclair's at which he allegedly pointed the gun. Sinclair admitted pointing the gun out the window at the other vehicle was a joke, according to the report.
Sinclair has been charged with three counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon for possessing an unloaded, uncased gun accessible to ammunition, that he did not have a valid concealed carry permit and that he used the gun in the commission of a misdemeanor. Those charges are Class 4 felonies punishable by one to three years in prison.
He has also been charged with a misdemeanor for possession of the brass knuckles.
In 2004, while he was a player on the football team, Sinclair pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery after he tackled and punched a man following a fight at Joe's Brewery.
According to a FightingIllini.com press release from April when Sinclair was hired, his duties include coordinating former player events, assisting with on-campus recruiting, coordinating the annual Illinois high school coaching clinic and coordinating all functions with the student section, fraternities and sororities.