ATHENS — Georgia freshman football players Julian Rochester and Chad Clay were released from Athens-Clarke County Jail Tuesday morning on a $2,000 bond. Each player stands accused of two felonies on charges related to shooting and possessing a BB gun in their dorm room.
Rochester and Clay were each charged with having a weapon in a school zone and criminal damage in the second degree, according to the online booking site for Athens-Clarke County.
“I’m disappointed with the poor judgment of Julian and Chad,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said in a statement. “We expect full compliance with the policies of the University and of our football program from all our student-athletes. Information is still being gathered but they will be disciplined in an appropriate manner.”
Later in the morning, Smart addressed the arrests during his weekly appearance on The Bulldog Roundtable on Atlanta radio station 680 The Fan. “Poor decisions,” Smart said. “It’s something we’re going to have to deal with as a university and a team.”
UGA Police still have not released the incident, which was requested under state and federal open record laws. The Athens-Clarke jail log shows that Clay was booked at 12:13 a.m. and Rochester at 12:29 a.m. Tuesday. Both were released on a $2,000 bond at 11:22 a.m., or an hour or so after a Tuesday morning hearing.
Kim Stephens, an Athens defense attorney representing the two players, said the players were shooting solo cups in their dorm room with a Daisy BB gun, which left marks on the door and in other areas of the room. The way the statute reads, anything that shoots a projectile — “including a straw and spitball” — fits the definition of a weapon on campus, Stephens said.
“Every kid eating with a steak knife in the campus dining hall commits a felony under the statute,” Stephens said.
The current political debate over campus carry legislation makes this a particularly volatile issue. House Bill 859 sits on the desk of Gov. Nathan Deal and would allow anyone 21 or older with a weapons license to carry a gun anywhere on a public college or university campus, except for inside four places: dormitories, fraternities and sorority houses, and at athletic events. Everywhere else, including campus child care centers, music concert venues and classrooms, would be open under the bill.
Neither Clay (19) nor Rochester (19) are 21 years old.
Both Rochester and Clay are early enrollees. Rochester, a defensive lineman from Powder Spring and McEachern High School, was one of the team’s top recruits. Clay is a defensive back from Marietta and Peachtree Ridge High School.
Rochester’s alma mater tweeted out a message of support on Tuesday morning:
Julian will bounce back from his mistake of having a BB gun in his dorm room. Live & learn. Supporting our fellow Indian through this time.
— McEachern Football (@McEachernFtball) April 12, 2016
These are the first felony arrests for a Georgia football player since Johnathan Taylor in July 2014 on domestic violence charges.
These are the second and third arrests of a Georgia football player this spring. Defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter was arrested last month on two misdemeanor alcohol charges.
Georgia’s defensive line has already drawn several suspensions for the opener against North Carolina. Ledbetter is suspended for that game because of his arrest, and fellow sophomore Chauncey Rivers is suspended the first three games after his second marijuana arrest, which occurred late last year.