Corby Holcomb

UT wide receiver Cayleb Jones has felony charge reduced to misdemeanor

UT wide receiver Cayleb Jones’ felony charge was dismissed and will be reduced to a misdemeanor to be tried by the county attorney according to Nick Valdez, an official at the District Attorney’s office.

Corby Holcomb, assistant director for the trial division at the County attorney’s office, said the county attorney will examine the case and decide whether to prosecute after the case is filed. As of now, the case has not been filed. Holcomb said “nothing will happen for a while.” 

According to police, Jones punched UT tennis player Joseph Swaysland on Feb. 22 outside a downtown nightclub after confronting Swaysland and UT volleyball player Katherine Bell. The blow fractured Swaysland’s jaw. Jones was charged with an an “aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury" on March 12 – a criminal offense punishable by up to 20 years in prison. 

Bell told police she had previously been in a relationship with Jones, who had threatened Swaysland before and was jealous of Bell seeing other men – specifically Swaysland. 

Rickey Durante Jones – Jones’s attorney – could not be reached for comment. 

Communication studies professor Dana Cloud, English professor Snehal Shingavi and Coordinator for the Texas State Employee Union Jim Branson wait to deliver a petition in the lobby of President PowerÂ’s office Wednesday before noon. The petition, with over 400 signatures, calls for charges to be dismissed against Make UT Sweatshop-Free Coalition protestors who were arrested in April.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

President William Powers, Jr. got a surprise delivery Wednesday as representatives of the Make UT Sweatshop-Free Coalition brought a petition to his office with more than 400 signatures.

The petition demands that criminal trespassing charges brought against 18 members of the coalition during a peaceful sit-in at Powers’ office last spring be immediately dropped. Powers does not have the ability to drop the charges himself and has said the case is now in the hands of the County Attorney.

“It got turned over to the [County Attorney], and that is the County Attorney’s business,” Powers said.

However, the coalition members believe Powers could influence the County Attorney and ask for dismissal of the charges on their behalf.

Corby Holcomb, assistant trial director for the Travis County Attorney’s Office, said last week that the victim or entity in a criminal trespassing case normally has a say in the charging and sentencing decisions.

“Normally, on a criminal trespass case, say, the property owner where the person was trespassing, they would definitely have input,” he said.

Holcomb declined to comment on the specific influence the University would have in this case, as it is currently ongoing.

The coalition members participated in the sit-in last spring to try and convince the University to join the Worker Rights Consortium, an organization that monitors the working conditions of factory employees internationally. Powers announced in July that UT would join the consortium to monitor conditions at some of the factories that manufacture UT apparel. The students will face trial on the charges Friday in Travis County Court, where they will have to either take one of two pleas offered to them or continue to fight the charges.

Government junior Lucy Griswold, who was arrested at the sit-in, said she believes the charges should be dropped because the sit-in was of a peaceful nature and held as a last resort effort.

“We were peacefully protesting, and this was after years of escalation in the campaign where we had used all of the democratic avenues offered on campus to have a dialogue with the University,” she said.

Griswold said if the University remains silent, it will also send a negative message to the rest of the campus community.

“We feel the charges should be dropped to reserve the right of protests on campus,” she said. “Essentially, this has always been about freedom of speech.”

Dana Cloud, associate professor of rhetoric and writing, said even if the charges are not dropped and the students stand trial Friday, the coalition will continue efforts to have the charges dismissed.

“We are not going to let this go down without a fight,” she said.

Printed on Thursday, September 13th, 2012 as: Petition requests Powers to drop case

Members of the Make UT Sweatshop-Free Coalition are preparing to go to court next week for criminal charges filed against them by UT.

A group of 18 UT students was arrested last spring during a sit-in meant to force UT to join the Worker Rights Consortium, an organization that monitors working conditions of factory employees internationally. Although UT announced plans to join the consortium in July, the 18 students will appear in court Friday facing charges for criminal trespass, a class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and 180 days in jail.

They must, at that time, either take one of two plea options offered to them earlier this summer or continue to fight the charges against them.

According to Lucian Villasenor, Mexican-American studies senior and arrested student, the plea options offered are as follows:

The first plea would immediately dismiss the charge and force the students to sign an admission of guilt to a class B misdemeanor criminal trespass charge.

The case would remain dismissed as long as the students completed 20 hours of community service and did not get arrested for anything above a class C misdemeanor traffic ticket over a subsequent six-month period. If successful in meeting those conditions, the students could then apply for expungement of the charge, and if unsuccessful, the county could re-file the case and use the admission of guilt in court.

The second plea would defer the charge to a class C misdemeanor of failure to obey a lawful order. Within a three-month period, the students would have to pay a $1 fine and relevant court costs, complete 15 hours of community service and remain arrest-free. If successful in meeting those conditions, the students could apply for expungement of the charge following a two-year waiting period subsequent to the arrest-free three months.

The coalition wanted UT to join the Worker Rights Consortium because they felt the organization overseeing production of UT apparel in foreign countries, Fair Labor Association, wasn’t adequately monitoring working conditions. UT is currently part of both organizations.

In a statement released last month, UT spokeswoman Tara Doolittle said the University administration is not taking further action in this case because they feel it is simply out of their hands.

Doolittle said the students were arrested for trespassing, not for expressing their opinions.

“The legal process for the trespassing charges is out of the University’s hands and lies with the [Travis] County Attorney’s Office,” she said.

Corby Holcomb, assistant trial director for the Travis County Attorney’s Office, said while his office does have the final say in the matter with cases involving criminal trespassing, input from the victim or entity in the case is normally taken into consideration when making charging and sentencing decisions.

“Normally, on a criminal trespass case, say, the property owner where the person was trespassing, they would definitely have input,” he said.

Holcomb declined specific comment on the University’s ability to influence this case, as it is still ongoing.

Bianca Hinz-Foley, a Plan II Honors sophomore arrested in the sit-in last spring, said she and other students arrested hope the UT administration will make an effort to have the charges dropped now that they have realized the importance of joining the Workers Rights Consortium.

“We really do believe that UT will do the right thing and get the charges dropped,” she said.

Naomi Paik, assistant American studies professor, said she supports the actions of the arrested students and opposes their criminalization in this case.

“The representatives of United Students Against Sweatshops acted as thoughtful citizens of their community, which we should always encourage, exercised their rights to free speech, and, importantly, exhausted regular avenues of raising their concerns well before they organized a peaceful sit-in,” she said. “Instead of treating peaceful students as criminals, we have a responsibility to take seriously their ethical concerns.”

Villasenor said he hopes the UT community will come together to support the charged students as their trials approach, but he has not seen much support for them recently.

“Right now, it just does not seem like there is much energy behind it,” he said.

Villasenor said some members of the Make UT Sweatshop Free Coalition are in the planning stages of initiatives to raise community support before the trial.