Jonathan Taylor enrolls at Alabama

ByEdward Aschoff and Mark Schlabach ESPN logo
Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Former Georgiadefensive lineman Jonathan Taylor, who was dismissed from the team in July after he was arrested for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, enrolled in classes at Alabama on Wednesday.

Taylor, who spent this past season at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson, Mississippi, was one of eight early enrollees announced by the Crimson Tide on Wednesday.

Taylor, from Millen, Georgia, still faces two felony counts of aggravated assault in Athens, Georgia. He was arrested on July 22, after police say he struck his girlfriend with a closed fist and choked her during an argument at his dormitory room at McWhorter Hall. A UGA police report said Taylor is 6-foot-4 and 340 pounds; police said his girlfriend is 5-foot-11, 170 pounds.

Taylor was indicted by an Athens-Clarke County grand jury in November. A bench warrant was issued for his arrest by Athens-Clarke County Superior Court Judge H. Patrick Haggard on Dec. 9, but was later withdrawn.

Taylor's attorney, Kim Stephens of Athens, said he hopes the case will be reintroduced to a grand jury later this month or in February. Under a new Georgia law, which went into effect last year, Taylor was charged with a felony because police believe he choked the woman. Under the old law, Taylor would have been charged with misdemeanor battery, Stephens said.

"There are some technical issues with the indictment, so I would expect the case to be presented to a grand jury again," Stephens said. "My hope is the grand jury would no-bill it with no charges or return it with misdemeanor charges."

When contacted on Wednesday, Athens-Clarke County district attorney Ken Mauldin wouldn't say whether his office would consider reducing Taylor's charges to misdemeanors.

"It would be inappropriate for me to discuss it one way or the other," Mauldin said.

Taylor was also one of four Georgia players arrested in March on misdemeanor charges of theft by deception for allegedly double-cashing meal-reimbursement checks from the UGA athletic department. Taylor was ordered to repay the money and complete community service and was allowed to remain on the team. Because of his July arrest, Taylor has been removed from a pretrial intervention program and now faces an April trial on two misdemeanor charges. Stephens said he hoped to resolve those issues in the future.

"In this particular situation, we thoroughly investigated numerous sources regarding the young man. I had extensive discussions with several people who have been very close to him, including a lengthy visit with this young man," Alabama athletic director Bill Battle said in a statement. "Our coaches and I feel he is worthy of a second chance at completing his college football career at this level, and that he fully understands the position in which he has placed himself."

As a redshirt freshman at Georgia in 2013, Taylor appeared in 10 games with the Bulldogs, recording nine tackles with one sack. Taylor registered 44 tackles with 11 for loss and 4.5 sacks at Copiah-Lincoln Community College this past season.

Stephens said a few other schools inquired about recruiting him.

"There are a lot of other schools that were recruiting him and would have admitted him," Stephens said. "Most of the schools in the Southeast were recruiting him."

On Wednesday, Alabama spokeswoman Deborah Lane said Taylor's application for admission was evaluated like any other student who faced past legal issues.

"Jonathan Taylor was admitted to the University of Alabama following the same procedures that the UA Admissions office uses to evaluate any student who has dealt with legal issues," Lane said in a statement. "The admissions process includes representatives from academic, legal, student affairs, student conduct, UAPD and counseling. Athletics is not involved in the admissions process. Taylor's continued enrollment depends on his ability to fulfill all requirements the university has specifically mandated for him during his time as a UA student."

Alabama's decision to admit Taylor comes at a time when the NFL and other pro sports have increased their awareness about domestic violence, following incidents involving formerBaltimore Ravens running back Ray Riceand other pro athletes. In August, Alabamacoach Nick Saban brought in a speaker during the Crimson Tide's preseason camp to address domestic violence.

"That is definitely an area where we want to continue to educate the players," Saban said told reporters at the time. "The importance of respect for other people, compassion for other people, and treating people the way you'd like to be treated yourself."

It isn't the first time Saban has given a player a second chance. Current Alabama defensive tackle D.J. Pettway rejoined the team in January 2014 after he was dismissed for allegedly assaulting and robbing a student on campus. Former Alabama players Eddie Williams and Tyler Hayes were also involved in the attack, but only Pettway was allowed to return to the team. After spending the 2013 season at East Mississippi Community College, Pettway played in 14 games at Alabama this past season, finishing with 23 tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks.

Last month, Saban told reporters about why he gives players second chances.

"There's always a lot of criticism out there when somebody does something wrong, everybody wants to know how you're going to punish the guy," Saban said. "There's not enough for 19- and 20-year-old kids, people out there saying, 'Why don't you give them another chance?'

"Where do you want them to be? Guy makes a mistake. Where do you want them to be? You want him to be in the street, or do you want them to be here graduating?"

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