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Chip Towers

Players’ arrests came on eve of first spring practice

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ATHENS – On the eve of Georgia’s first spring football practice of the year, four players were arrested and jailed on charges of theft by deception.

Updates: What the players are accused of doing

Sophomore safety Tray Matthews, junior outside linebacker James DeLoach, redshirt freshman receiver Uriah LeMay and redshirt sophomore defensive end Jonathan Taylor all were booked into Athens-Clarke County jail around 9 p.m. Monday on multiple counts of the same misdemeanor charge, 11 counts totals.  All were released on bonds of $1,500 per count by 10:30 p.m, or roughly 17 1/2 hours before the Bulldogs’ first practice of the spring period.

The arrests were made by UGA Police and the victim in each case is the UGA Athletic Association. “Theft by deception” is defined as “the property of another is obtained through deceit,” according to georgiadefenders.com.

Three of the players were allegedly  double-cashing their weekly stipend checks of $71.50 each by depositing them via a mobile banking application on their phones, then taking the paper check to a local convenience store shortly thereafter and cashing them again. LeMay is accused of retrieving the already-cashed check of a teammate and cashing it at a store.

Since each crime committed represented less than $500 in value, they were considered misdemeanors. Such crimes are punishable by up to 18 months in a county jail.

“I’m aware of the situation and it will be handled in an appropriate way,” football coach Mark Richt said in a statement.

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According to “Comprehensive Action Plan” in UGA’s Student-Athlete handbook, “the Head Coach is responsible for imposing whatever discipline measures he/she deems appropriate.”

There is precedent. In 2012, Richt dismissed three players involved in the theft of money from teammate. One of those — former cornerback Nick Marshall — ended up playing quarterback for Auburn this past season.

In the meantime, all four players are/were expected to play a significant role this coming season:

  • Matthews is expected to start at safety. The 6-foot, 205-pound sophomore had 36 tackles, an interception and forced a fumble in eight games with six starts as a true freshman last season.
  • DeLoach, a 6-3, 265-pound junior, is considered one of Georgia’s best strongside outside linebacker (Sam), but rarely gets on the field. He’s played in 18 games the last two seasons with 8 tackles.
  • Taylor, a 6-4, 336-pound redshirt sophomore, is expected to compete for the starting job at noseguard. He played in 10 games last season with 9 tackles.
  • LeMay, a 6-foot-2, 197-pound redshirt freshman, was described by fellow wideout Michael Bennett recently as a young player to look out for this spring. He’s expected to get a lot of reps with Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley still sidelined with injuries.

With regard to UGA turning the matter over to police, the athletic association had no choice but to do it or risk being non-compliant with NCAA rules regarding player compensation or guilty of committing financial fraud.

More on this Tuesday. Georgia’s first practice is scheduled to start at 4:45 p.m.

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