DA: LSU safety Jalen Mills charged with simple battery

LSU safety Jalen Mills rejoined the football team on the opening day of fall camp Monday, the same day prosecutors charged him with a misdemeanor for allegedly punching a woman at his apartment.

Mills originally was booked on second-degree battery, a felony, in the May incident.

A junior who’s expected to start for the Tigers, Mills had been indefinitely suspended from the team since his arrest in June.

On Monday, Mills participated in the last of two practices, hours after East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III announced at 12:15 a.m. that he will charge him with misdemeanor simple battery.

“Misdemeanor being what it is, we’re moving forward,” LSU coach Les Miles said when asked about the timing of the decision.

The situation is similar to events last season involving running back Jeremy Hill. Hill pleaded guilty to a simple battery charge stemming from a fight outside a Tigerland bar.

Moore charged Hill on the same day last year — the first day of fall camp — and the sophomore running back returned to practice that afternoon after a team vote.

There was not a team vote to reinstate Mills, Miles said.

“We kind of, after an entire summer of suspension, we felt like, while this thing was still being decided, we’d bring him onto the team and then continue that discipline,” the coach said.

Hill did not play in the first five quarters of the 2013 season, an unannounced suspension. Miles is not revealing a possible suspension for Mills during the season, saying matters will be handled “internally.”

Mills’ attorney, Brent Stockstill, said Mills plans to plead not guilty to the charge.

“Jalen did not commit this crime,” Stockstill said. “At trial, I think he will be found not guilty.”

Trial could be months away. An arraignment date has not been set.

Meanwhile, Mills, a Texas native, will participate in team activities while completing more punishment, Miles said.

Mills was moved from cornerback to safety late last season and was expected to be a starter at one of the two safety spots this season until his arrest for allegedly punching a woman, causing her to briefly lose consciousness in the hallway of his apartment complex on May 4.

According to the arrest warrant, the woman needed four stitches to close a gash on her lip after the altercation that began, she said, after she knocked on Mills’ door looking for a friend. A witness corroborated the victim’s story and both picked Mills out of a photo lineup.

The warrant does not identify the victim or the witness.

In an email Monday to The Advocate, Moore explained his decision to charge Mills with a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

For a felony, Moore would have had to prove “serious bodily injury.” He said he could not.

“I have to prove that any defendant has the specific intent to cause any one of those injuries or conditions,” he said. “In this case, similar to the Jordan Jefferson and hundreds of other fights/batteries, I cannot. There is no specific provision for man versus woman except for domestic violence or family situations, which this is not.”

Simple battery is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or six months in prison under state law.

Mills was banned from all team activities over the summer. That included strength and conditioning training. As part of Mills’ internal discipline, he will perform extra conditioning, Miles said.

Mills was not listed on the Tigers’ preseason depth chart released in July. Corey Thompson and Rickey Jefferson were expected to replace him. On Monday, Mills practiced alongside Jefferson at safety in the afternoon portion of drills. Thompson and Martin were the safeties in the morning practice.

In his LSU career, Mills has started all 26 games, and he ranked third on the roster last season with 67 tackles and three interceptions. He is on the Lott Trophy Watch list and is the secondary’s most experienced member.

“We’re ready for him to get back out here,” fellow safety Ronald Martin said Monday. “We miss him out here. He’s a great friend and a great leader, so we’d love to have him back out here.”

Martin has spoken to Mills during his summer-long suspension.

“He’s confident,” Martin said. “He’s like a brother to me. He’s always been confident.”

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv. For more coverage of LSU football, follow our Tiger Tracks blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/tigertracks/.