A judge handed suspended LSU tailback Jeremy Hill a stern warning and two years of probation Friday after Hill and another man each pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor simple battery charge stemming from an April 27 incident outside a Baton Rouge bar.
“You’re about this far away from ruining your life,” state District Judge Mike Erwin told the 20-year-old Hill, while raising his hand and holding his thumb and index finger close together.
Hill, a sophomore, already is serving two years’ probation for a December 2010 incident in which he engaged in a sexual act with a 14-year-old girl in the Redemptorist High School locker room.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said his office intended to file a motion Friday seeking to have Hill’s initial two-year probation revoked as a result of his guilty plea. Hill faces an Aug. 16 hearing before state District Judge Bonnie Jackson to review the status of the probation she imposed on him.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” Hill’s attorney, Marci Blaize, said after court.
“My goal today was to make sure Jeremy’s status as a student remained intact,” she added. “I do think it’s a fair resolution. He’s pleased with the outcome. He wants to move on.”
After speaking with head football coach Les Miles about Hill, LSU athletic department spokesman Michael Bonnette issued the following statement Friday afternoon: “Jeremy Hill remains indefinitely suspended from the football team and Coach Miles will not comment any further until the legal process surrounding this matter is completed.”
Miles suspended Hill indefinitely on April 29.
In the April incident, a cellphone video shows Hill and Robert Bayardo, 21, each punching a 20-year-old man in the head in the parking lot of Reggie’s Bar on Bob Pettit Drive after 2 a.m. The video, which contains profanity, shows Hill and Bayardo giving each other high-fives in front of the victim after he fell to the ground.
The District Attorney’s Office released copies of the 47-second video after Friday’s court proceeding.
Blaize has said previously that “numerous individuals” made derogatory comments to Hill the night of the incident, and that there is likely “more to the story” than what is contained on the video. She essentially reiterated those contentions Friday.
“I’ll let the video speak for itself,” Moore said. “This kid was the victim of a punch. He’s suffering from this right now.”
Erwin put Bayardo on probation for one year because he has no prior criminal record.
Erwin, a huge LSU fan, told Hill he considers former Tigers running back Cecil “The Diesel” Collins — who appeared in a Baton Rouge courtroom Thursday — one of the school’s best backs ever, but off-field legal problems sidelined his career.
“He had a chance to be a superstar. You have that chance too,” the judge told Hill. “Do you follow me?”
“Yes, I follow you,” replied Hill, standing next to Blaize.
Minutes earlier, Hill apologized for his actions on April 27.
Bayardo’s attorney, Rodney Messina, told the judge that his client also is sorry for what happened.
Hill and Bayardo each faced up to six months in jail. Erwin gave Hill six months in jail but suspended it.
Assistant District Attorney Sue Bernie told Erwin the cellphone video shot by a witness clearly shows that the victim was “blind-sided” and punched.
Hill struck the man on the side of the head, and then Bayardo hit him in the back of the head, knocking him to the ground.
“It’s not a fight,” she stressed.
Bernie told the judge that the victim was leaving the sentencing up to him, but if probation was ordered the man was requesting restitution for his medical bills that totaled $750.
Erwin ordered Hill and Bayardo to pay $375 apiece to the victim, write letters of apology to him, perform 50 hours of community service and attend an anger management class. The judge also ordered the pair to have no contact with the victim, and not to post anything on social media about the incident or talk to the press about it.
In May, after the parking lot incident, Jackson added new conditions to Hill’s initial probation, including a curfew between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. and a requirement that he avoid bars.
Hill faces an Aug. 16 hearing in Jackson’s court to review the status of that probation.
Erwin on Friday said Hill’s curfew remains in effect, but he said football-related activities would be exempt from the curfew.
The judge said he will review Hill’s and Bayardo’s cases on Oct. 18.
In the 2010 incident, Hill and another former Redemptorist student, Avery Tate, pleaded guilty in January 2012 to misdemeanor carnal knowledge of a juvenile and were given six-month suspended jail terms.
Hill’s status with LSU remains in limbo as his legal issues wind their way through the courts ahead of fall practice opening during the first week of August.
Under NCAA guidelines, schools must notify students by July 1 whether their scholarship, which is a de facto one-year contract, has been renewed for the upcoming school year.
Whether LSU signed off on a financial aid package to Hill is not known. Federal student privacy laws consider scholarship information part of “directory information” that can be disclosed upon request unless a student opts out of making such details available.
“I have been advised by the University Registrar that Mr. Hill is on file as having exercised (the) opt out right,” Miriam Segar, an associate athletic director at LSU, wrote to The Advocate in response to a records request. “LSU is not authorized under federal law to disclose any record.”
If Hill’s scholarship was pulled, he would have 10 days under NCAA bylaws to submit a written notification of appeal to LSU’s financial aid office with a statement for why the decision was unfair. A hearing involving the player, coach and athletic director would take place, and the player would be notified of a decision within three days.
Through an athletic department spokesman, Miles also has said he will let the legal process play out before deciding Hill’s future with the Tigers.
LSU kicks off its season Aug. 31 against Texas Christian University at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Advocate staff writer Jim Mustian and Advocate online entertainment editor Kevin McQuarn contributed to this report.
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