Hours after he dodged jail time for violating his probation on a sex crime, running back Jeremy Hill was given another chance by LSU coach Les Miles to dodge would-be tacklers for the Tigers this fall.
Miles’ decision to reinstate the sophomore running back came early Monday evening and ends a three-month exile for Hill, who was suspended from the team after he punched a fellow student outside a Tigerland bar in April. He pleaded guilty to simple battery last month but faced up to six months in jail for violating probation in a 2012 case in which he pleaded guilty as a high school senior to carnal knowledge of a minor.
Hill returned to practice Monday afternoon, the first day of preseason workouts for the Tigers. Miles said there will be “further punishment” for Hill but did not give specifics.
Miles also would not say whether Hill will be suspended from any of LSU’s games in the upcoming season.
“I’m going to kind of review, and make a quality call as best I can,” Miles said.
Earlier in the day, State District Judge Bonnie Jackson lectured Hill and not only added a special condition — 40 hours of community service at the Bishop Ott Center — to the two years of probation she gave him in January 2012, but also issued a stern warning.
“You are to refrain from all other criminal conduct,” the judge told Hill, who wore a dark suit and purple tie as he stood next to his attorney, Marci Blaize.
The judge’s decision, which was handed down at about 11 a.m., put the ball squarely back in Miles’ court and landed on the same day the Tigers opened their preseason camp.
Miles said Hill met with the team at 2:15 p.m. and apologized for his actions.
“There was some interplay and conversation, and they voted to invite him back,” Miles said. “He owes this school, this team and this community his best behavior.”
Hill took no questions during the news conference with Miles, but he did thank the coach and the university.
“I would like to apologize to my teammates and the community,” he said. “I made a poor choice. Since then I’ve learned from that mistake, and moving forward I’ll continue to be a better person, a better teammate and continue to be a role model for the kids in the community.”
Miles said that Hill’s overall good behavior helped him get back on the team.
“He’s not a guy that has had constant bad behavior,” Miles said of Hill. “Obviously he’s had a lack of judgment and bad behavior in these two instances. But the reality is we all see him around here as a good person.”
At the court hearing, Judge Jackson said she will review Hill’s probation — the probation she imposed on Jan. 6, 2012 — on Jan. 10. That probation is set to expire in January. The probation was his penalty for pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of carnal knowledge of a juvenile.
The incident occurred in December 2010. Hill, then 18, was accused of engaging in a sexual act with a 14-year-old girl in the Redemptorist High School locker room.
Last month, fellow 19th Judicial District Court Judge Mike Erwin also put Hill on probation for two years after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor simple battery charge stemming from an April 27 incident outside Reggie’s Bar on Bob Pettit Drive.
Hill’s probation in that case is set to expire in July 2015.
Jackson noted that Hill had completed the conditions of his 2012 probation before he “sucker-punched” a man outside Reggie’s.
“That technically is a violation of probation,” she said.
The judge, who said she wanted to hear directly from Hill, then had a long back-and-forth exchange with the idled running back.
“There are a lot of people who want to speak on your behalf, but there are also a lot of people in the community who want to see you go to jail,” she said.
Jackson asked Hill why it is that some people “want to see you fail.”
“I made some mistakes in my life and they don’t think I deserve a second chance,” Hill replied.
The judge asked Hill if he has seen the cellphone video of himself punching a man in the side of the head outside Reggie’s.
“I just feel so terrible for what I did,” he answered. “I let my emotions get the most of me.”
Jackson suggested the video depicts a level of “arrogance” on Hill’s part because he is seen laughing after throwing the punch.
“To see you laughing about sucker-punching that young man, it struck people that, ‘I’m Jeremy Hill. I can do whatever I want. Ha ha ha.’ ”
“What have you accomplished at 20 that gives you the right to be arrogant? Absolutely nothing,” the judge added. “Playing football is a privilege.”
Jackson acknowledged that Hill has God-given abilities but said so do many inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola who have squandered that talent.
Hill, who noted that his father and mother are ministers, said his actions have “terribly disappointed” his family.
Jackson, who said Hill is still a “boy” in her eyes, added that Hill also put his coaches and teammates in a “difficult position.”
“Have you grown as an individual? Have you learned from this experience?” she asked.
“Going forward, I plan on putting myself in better situations,” Hill said, stating that he is doing well in school.
Blaize said later she was glad that everyone in the courtroom got to witness “what a well-grounded individual he really is.”
“I know a lot of people haven’t seen that side,” she said. “Today I think you saw that in his comments to Judge Jackson.”
Hill had been scheduled to appear before Jackson on Aug. 16 for a review of his probation but instead appeared Monday for a status conference at Blaize’s request. The proceeding seemed to catch prosecutors by surprise as Jackson had not been expected to take up the revocation motion at the status conference.
“We asked for him to be revoked. She (the judge) didn’t see it that way,” East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said outside the courthouse. Hill faced up to six months in jail if his probation had been revoked.
Jackson in May imposed new restrictions, including a curfew between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., after Hill was arrested April 27 for the attack outside Reggie’s. Last month, when Hill pleaded guilty in that case, Erwin adopted the same curfew but said it would not apply to football-related activities. Jackson agreed with that exception Monday.
In the incident outside Reggie’s, a cellphone video shows Hill and Robert Bayardo, 21, punching a man in the parking lot. The video shows Hill and Bayardo giving each other high-fives in front of the victim after he fell to the ground. Bayardo also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor simple battery charge and was put on probation for one year.
Miles suspended Hill indefinitely two days after the bar incident.
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.
LSU kicks off its season Aug. 31 against TCU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
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