Travis County Court

Former Texas wide receivers Montrel Meander, left, and Kendall Sanders, right.

Photo Credit: Texas Sports

Former Texas football players Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander, both of whom were charged with second-degree felonies for sexual assault, have been indicted, according to documents from the Travis County Court.

According to the documents, dated Dec. 8, a grand jury found enough evidence to indict the two players for sexual assault, which means the trials will go forward. Meander is set to appear in court Wednesday, and Sanders on Jan. 23, according to Travis County court records.

Sanders and Meander were originally arrested July 24 after allegedly sexually assaulting a female student in a campus dorm on June 21. Immediately following the arrests, Texas head coach Charlie Strong suspended both players from the team for an indefinite amount of time. He announced on Aug. 3 that they had been dismissed from the team because of the charges brought against them.

If convicted, the two could each face a sentence of two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Over the winter break, three former student-athletes will face criminal court hearings. Below is an update on their cases:

Sanders and Meander

The preliminary hearings for former Texas football players Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander, both of whom were charged with second-degree felonies for sexual assault, have been rescheduled for 9 a.m. on Dec. 5 and Dec. 15, respectively, according to Travis County court records. Both cases have been rescheduled multiple times since the players’ first scheduled court date in August.

If convicted, they could face a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. According to Travis County Clerk Grace Ramirez, it could take up to a year before the players are indicted and the cases
move forward.

Sanders and Meander were originally arrested July 24 after allegedly sexually assaulting a female student in a campus dorm on June 21. Immediately following the arrests, Texas head coach Charlie Strong suspended both players from the team for an indefinite amount of time. He announced on Aug. 3 that they had been dismissed from the team because of the charges brought against them.

Bail was set at $75,000 for both Meander and Sanders for one count of sexual assault each. Sanders has an additional bail of $20,000 for a charge of improper photography.

Martez Walker

After being rescheduled multiple times, the hearing for former basketball guard Martez Walker, who is charged for alleged assault with injury and criminal trespass, is scheduled for Dec. 19 at 9:30 a.m., according to Travis County court records.

Head coach Rick Barnes suspended Walker from the team on Sept. 12 after Walker allegedly hit his girlfriend in an incident at San Jacinto Residence Hall, according to a statement released by the University. Walker turned himself in at the Travis County Courthouse after the incident, and a judge issued an arrest warrant in which bond was set at $7,500.

While banned, Walker reappeared on campus less than a week later, when he was arrested for trespassing by returning to the dormitory where the alleged assault occurred. He was taken into custody by UTPD and transported to Travis County Jail.

University officials confirmed on Oct. 9 that Walker had withdrawn from the University.

Several court cases related to the University and the Austin area have progressed over the summer. Below is an update on the status of three major cases:

Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander

The preliminary hearing for former Texas football players Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander, both of whom were charged with second-degree felonies for sexual assault, has been rescheduled for 9 a.m. on Sept. 2, according to Travis County court records. The date was rescheduled from Aug. 7 in order to ensure that both players had legal representation.

Sanders and Meander were arrested July 24 after allegedly sexually assaulting a female student in a campus dorm on June 21. According to UTPD Chief David Carter, both players were released later that day on bond because they did not pose a danger to other students. 

Immediately following the arrests, Texas head coach Charlie Strong suspended both players from the team for an indefinite amount of time. He then announced on Aug. 3 that they had been dismissed from the team because of the charges brought against them. 

Bail was set at $75,000 for both Meander and Sanders for one count of sexual assault each. Sanders has an additional bail of $20,000 for a charge of improper photography. If convicted, both players could face a sentence of up to 20 years and an additional fine of up to $10,000.

President William Powers Jr. said in a statement that the University has undertaken a Student Judicial Services review, which could result in the players’ expulsion from the University. 

Rashad Owens

Court dates for Rashad Owens have been pushed back four times since he was arrested in March. 

Owens was charged with capital murder after driving while drunk through a barrier on Red River Street during the South By Southwest festival last March, killing four people and injuring 20 others. 

Owens was originally scheduled to appear in court April 9, before his trial, but a number of no-shows and requests by his attorney have pushed the pretrial hearing back to 9 a.m. on Oct. 6. According to Janice Porter, Travis County court clerk, it could possibly be another year before Owens goes to trial. 

The charges against Owens include capital murder, four counts of felony murder and 24 counts of aggravated assault. Bond was set at $5.5 million.

Rahatul Khan

After pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy for attempting to provide terrorists with material support, UT student Rahatul Khan could face up to 15 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. At the plea hearing on July 2, Khan admitted to providing a recommendation to a co-conspirator about someone who wanted to engage in terrorist activities in Somalia. 

Khan was arrested by federal prosecutors in Round Rock on June 17, the same day as another conspirator, Michael Wolfe, was arrested in Houston and eventually given the same charge. Wolfe said he planned to travel to Syria and fight with a terrorist group linked to al-Qaida.

On June 20, Khan was officially indicted by a federal grand jury with the charge of conspiracy and waived his formal arraignment, or formal reading of criminal charges. He was scheduled to appear at a detention hearing to determine whether he could have been released on bond before his trial on June 30 but waived the right to that hearing also. 

On June 27, Wolfe pled guilty, and Khan pled guilty on July 2. Both are still in federal custody, pending sentencing before District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin. No sentencing date has been scheduled.

Former presidential candidate Madison Gardner and running mate Antonio Guevara said they may file a lawsuit against UT as a last resort to get back on the campus-wide elections ballot.

They claim the Election Code rules the Election Supervisory Board and Student Government Judicial Court used to disqualify them violated their constitutional rights.

Campaign manager Alexander Jones said Gardner and Guevara will explore various plans of action within the Office of the Dean of Students and other entities this week before the elections to try and get Gardner and Guevara back on the ballot. The Judicial Court denied Gardner and Guevara’s second appeal of the Election Supervisory Board’s disqualification Sunday and issued a separate disqualification punishment to signify their agreement with the Board’s decision. The Board disqualified the Gardner campaign on Feb. 22 for associating itself with Student Events Center presidential candidate Carissa Kelley via promotional materials for their campaign.

Jones said they may file a case with the Travis County Court because the Election Code provision banning any association between candidates violates their first amendment right to associate with anyone they choose. He said Travis County has intervened in SG elections in the past, citing the 1997 case of vice presidential candidate Marc Levin. Levin took the charges up with Travis County and the judge ordered UT to postpone the elections and after review put Levin back on the ballot.

Jones also said in the 2008 changes to the Election Code there was specific language that classified an association between candidates as any official campaign title, banner or acronym to classify two or more candidates to run as a “ticket.” SG ratified the Election Code in 2008 to ban the ticket system, in which candidates could endorse one another and run together under one name.

“We believe that there needs to be a review of the decision and that precedent needs to be followed,” Jones said. “Based on the precedents, there is no reason they should have ever been disqualified.”

Jones said the Gardner campaign understood it could not associate with other SG candidates, but Kelley is a candidate for a position with University Unions. He said that was never made clear to them in any meeting with SG officials or the Board. He said the campaign did have the right to appeal because the Board did not interpret the Election Code as the original authors intended.

Rachel Meyerson, former College of Liberal Arts representative and educational psychology graduate student, co-authored the legislation defining candidate associations in 2008 and said she felt Gardner and Guevara did have the right to appeal and the Election Code was not interpreted as they originally intended.

“Our intent was to make sure candidates were not running under one large banner,” she said. “[Madison and Antonio] were not running under one large banner. I am confused as to why the Board would disqualify them because it does not seem to be in violation of what we wrote.”

In their second appeal to the court, the Gardner campaign affirmed chair Eric Nimmer allegedly consulted with College of Liberal Arts representative Philip Wiseman on the Board’s decision. They also claimed the Board failed to maintain objectivity because of Nimmer’s personal bias and that he has an improper influence on the Board because he helped author the current Election Code and serves on the Board as well as the Judicial Court.

The Gardner campaign submitted audio evidence of Nimmer talking to Wiseman and discussing the decision after it had been made. When Wiseman asked if there was going to be any more disqualifications, Nimmer said, “Well, let someone piss me off.”

Nimmer did not deny that he said that, but said it was taken out of context. He said he never spoke to Wiseman or anyone before the decision was made and gave the Board official opinion to people who asked for it afterwards because it was public information.

“The idea of me being out to get people and me having the power to do so is completely comical,” Nimmer said. “I am on the record as not wanting to disqualify people because I want students to be able to vote.”

Nimmer said he still believes the board’s ruling is sound.

Printed on Monday, February 27, 2012 as: Campaign may file lawsuit, cites first amendment