Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press/ - Wide receiver Da Rick Rogers (21) fends off Oregon safety Eddie Pleasant (11) on a big gainer on Tennessee's second possession.
KNOXVILLE — After former Calhoun (Ga.) High School star Da’Rick Rogers’ court appearance Tuesday morning, the Knox County District Attorney General’s office announced that it was “unable to bring charges” from an early- morning July 9 bar fight near the University of Tennessee campus.
That incident involved some UT football players and sent two men, including off-duty Knoxville Police Department officer Robert Capouellez, to the hospital.
Rogers, a freshman wide receiver, had his resisting-arrest charge from the incident cleared Tuesday morning in Knox County General Sessions Court.
The disorderly conduct charge for Rogers, 19, also will be dismissed if he completes 16 hours of community service by Oct. 27.
“I have maintained my innocence from the moment I was arrested, and am thankful that I can finally put these matters behind me,” Rogers said through a prepared statement. “I was present in Bar Knoxville at the time a fight broke out among other people, but I was not fighting or drinking.”
Rogers claimed, through the statement, that his vision was impaired by pepper spray administered to his face by a bar employee outside the building.
Multiple witnesses to the altercation said pepper spray was liberally administered outside the bar.
“At the time, I did not realize these people [in the altercation] included police officers, and only became aware of that fact as I was being handcuffed,” Rogers’ statement said. “I never intended to resist the officers who were attempting to arrest me.”
The only other Vol arrested in the incident — safety Darren Myles Jr. — had been arrested earlier in the year and was promptly dismissed from the program.
As of now, no other UT football players on the scene — and there were more than a dozen — will be charged in the matter.
The District Attorney’s Office released a statement Tuesday that charges could not be brought for several reasons.
“District Attorney Randy Nichols assigned two experienced assistant DAs who spent a great deal of time working closely with Knoxville Police Department investigators assigned to the case beginning the day after these events,” the statement said. “The investigation failed to develop sufficient evidence to bring charges for actions that occurred inside and outside Bar Knoxville that night. Due to contradictory statements provided by several witnesses and a lack of cooperation on the part of several others, it was not possible to determine who committed criminal acts that night at Bar Knoxville.
“The assistant DAs assigned to this case reviewed every possible bit of evidence and all statements that could be gathered, including police videos and audiotapes. The conflicting accounts of what happened given by various witnesses could not resolved. Most witnesses were unable to identify persons who may have committed assaults at Bar Knoxville, and some witnesses identified persons not present as committing assaults.”
Nichols, via the statement, “expressed regret that charges could not be brought, particularly since [Capouellez] was seriously injured in one of the altercations that occurred.”
“Even though the officer was not on duty and there is no evidence he identified himself as a police officer, he was acting to ensure the safety of people at the scene,” the statement continued. “Unfortunately, Officer Capouellez has no recollection of how and by whom he was assaulted. General Nichols says he is particularly concerned that several individuals that should have had more information about the altercations involved were uncooperative.”
Nichols, through the statement, said lack of cooperation is “the norm when we deal with fights and shootings late at night in and around bars.”
The district attorney noted that the UT players “placed themselves in a very volatile situation and put themselves seriously at risk of being implicated in criminal acts.
“I hope they realize the seriousness the risk they put themselves in, and that, at least, we won’t see any of these athletes in a similar situation in the future,” he said.
The KPD released a statement Tuesday afternoon insisting it hadn’t given up on the case.
“Although disappointed with the outcome, the department understands the hurdles that would need to be overcome for a successful prosecution,” the KPD statement said. “The fact of the matter remains, Officer Capouellez was severely injured due to no fault of his own. He was attacked and left lying unconscious in the road.
“The department will continue to follow up on any additional information that may come to light in the future and provide that information to the DA’s office.”
First-year UT coach Derek Dooley has said for weeks that he “felt good” about the ultimate conclusion of the investigation, barring any new developments.
Those developments haven’t surfaced, it seems.
“I think I should talk about it,” Dooley said. “From the moment it happened, our players have been completely honest from day one. They never wavered in their honesty. They’ve been unbelievably cooperative with the police. They were incredibly available and cooperative with the investigators — and many times were doing it without the protection of an attorney, because they wanted the truth out, and they wanted their story out.
“It doesn’t surprise me it was resolved the way it was, and I’m very appreciative of the process. I respect the process and, as I told the players, when you’re honest and you handle it the right way and trust the process, things tend to work out for what’s right.”
Dooley was particularly happy for Rogers.
“There’s a lot of burden you carry when you’ve been publicly attacked and publicly embarrassed, and when you’re on the front page of the paper coming out of a jail cell,” Dooley said. “It’s embarrassing, and I think sometimes we don’t realize how much that hurts and weighs on a kid.
“It’s hard, and anybody who’s been embarrassed in public — especially for something where they don’t understand why — it is a hard thing. But that’s the world we live in. I wish I could control that, but unfortunately, we’re more concerned about the headlines sometimes than the truth.”
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