Thursday, June 5, 2003

Football star facing drug charge


Jarrett wasted his potential, police say

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - Even police say the story of Wayne A. Brandon Jarrett is about squandered potential.

"What a waste, because this kid had all this talent to play football, possibly even professionally. But he chose to be involved with drugs," said Hamilton Police Sgt. Carl Sigmon.

When he was in high school, Jarrett made headlines and spurred wide debate in 1998 after he was allowed to continue playing football despite a cocaine-trafficking conviction. At the time, Princeton High School officials said they had no rule that would forbid Jarrett from playing; the school district later changed its athletics-participation policy.

Now, despite a prison term and pledges to turn his life around, Jarrett is facing a new drug charge after his arrest last week in "the highest area for crack cocaine sales in the city," Sigmon said.

Jarrett, 23, was among six suspects arrested at a Chestnut Drive address in the Bamboo Harris public housing area on Friday. Police say Jarrett and four other suspects actually were coated in cocaine at the time of their arrest.

Sigmon explained that someone had apparently put cocaine into a glass bowl and was cooking it in a microwave oven, a common method for making "rocks" of crack for sale. But when Hamilton SWAT officers entered the residence, "one suspect removed the bowl, threw it across the room and it broke," Sigmon said. The cocaine "just went everywhere," he said, all over the suspects, including Jarrett.

Among other items, officers seized the microwave and $2,020 from Jarrett's pants pocket. They also took his shirt and shorts, which were covered in white powder, suspected to be cocaine, police said.

Jarrett is free after posting $2,041 bond, police said. He is scheduled for a June 17 preliminary hearing on a drug abuse charge in Municipal Court. Attempts to obtain comment from an attorney or relative of Jarrett were unsuccessful Wednesday.

Princeton Athletic Director Scott Kaufman said: "We have had no contact with Brandon since he left five years ago. It's unfortunate to hear he has gotten himself in trouble again."

According to a search warrant affidavit, Hamilton police had been conducting surveillance near the Chestnut Drive address and had seen Jarrett "conduct several drug transactions" in recent weeks. Officers also saw him "associating with other known drug offenders," the affidavit says. Sigmon said he expects more charges against Jarrett.

Now standing 6-foot-1 and weighing 340 pounds, Jarrett weighed about 295 when he was a leading defensive player for the Princeton Vikings. Jarrett had pleaded guilty to possessing crack cocaine and selling it to an undercover Hamilton police officer for $20 in 1998. Then 18, Jarrett played in several football games before he was sentenced to spend a year in prison.

At the time, some Princeton school officials spoke out on behalf of Jarrett, saying he was viewed as a leader and seemed to be doing well academically. They also said excluding him from playing would have violated his rights because there was no state or district rule that would forbid sports participation after a drug conviction.

Princeton now has a policy that says a student can face disciplinary action, including removal from a sports team, if school officials or police see him or her with alcohol, drugs or tobacco products - even if "during the season while off school grounds."

The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA), which issues rules that govern student athletes statewide, continues to allow each school to determine whether a student is eligible for sports participation despite a drug conviction, OHSAA Assistant Commissioner Duane Warns said Wednesday.

Warns said the association doesn't track how many similar situations happen, though he was aware of better outcomes than Jarrett's. "We've had kids that have been incarcerated and came back to their school and played again," he said.

Jarrett had promised to reform when Anthony Valen, then a Butler common pleas judge, agreed to send Jarrett from prison to a halfway house about midway through his prison term. "If you give me another chance, I'll do right," Jarrett had told the judge, saying he never wanted to go to prison again.

E-mail jmorse@enquirer.com




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