Editor's Note: Updated to include a statement from the Northern Illinois Athletics Department
A Northern Illinois University football player appeared Thursday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, where he pleaded not guilty to charges that he caused injuries to two University of Toledo band members during a November football game.
Jamaal T. Bass, 20, of Dekalb, Ill., is charged with felonious assault and misdemeanor assault. He is accused of jumping shoulder-first into the face of a band member and knocking over others as his team ran onto the field just as the band was exiting before a Nov. 1 game at the Glass Bowl.
Judge Ruth Ann Franks ordered a monitored recognizance bond, which includes regular phone contacts, as well as drug and alcohol testing. Before ordering the bond, the judge asked what a drug test today would show.
Judge Franks expressed surprise when Mr. Bass acknowledged marijuana would be found in his system.
“I didn’t know football players at a university could smoke dope,” she said. The judge was standing in for Judge James Jensen, who was assigned the case.
Based on Mr. Bass’ statement in court, the NIU athletic department released a statement late Thursday:
“Northern Illinois Athletics has in place a Drug Testing Policy which applies to all student-athletes. That policy dictates a specific course of action which NIU will now begin with football’s Jamaal Bass based on his public statement today in Toledo,” said Donna Turner, associate athletic director for communications for the university.
Mr. Bass was taken into custody to be booked before being released on bond. If convicted, he faces up to nine years in prison.
Authorities said Mr. Bass, a linebacker on the team, hit members of the Rocket Marching Band as the group was leaving the field after a pre-game show. Reports of the incident show four band members were knocked down, of which two reported being injured.
One male band member was knocked in the face, causing his head to snap back and hit another female in the head, authorities said. The male suffered a concussion while the female suffered “facial injuries and severe headaches.”
Attorney Jerry Phillips, who is representing Mr. Bass, said he has yet to receive all the information about the incident and will be reviewing the evidence, including television coverage, so he can discuss with his client how to move forward.
“It’s an unfortunate situation and it’s unusual in that it occurred during a sporting event,” he said.
The case was handled by the University of Toledo police. Within days of the incident, Northern Illinois University athletics officials released a statement apologizing for the incident and noting that Mr. Bass had been suspended from playing in the team’s next game.
When additional information about the injuries was brought to light, the suspension was extended to three games, which encompassed the rest of the regular season, said Ms. Turner, who declined further comment, and instead referred to a statement released at the time of the incident.
“As the legal proceedings in Toledo involving NIU football player Jamaal Bass are ongoing, we will reserve any comment until that process is complete. Jamaal is currently enrolled at Northern Illinois and his status with the football program has not changed,” the statement read.
Jeff Lingo, chief of the criminal division for the prosecutor’s office, said the case was handled no differently than other assault cases.
“As in all cases where people suffer serious injuries, this case was presented to the Lucas County grand jury who decided that there was enough probable cause to indict Mr. Bass,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that this incident happened, but it happened about five minutes before the game started and not during the game.”
Mr. Bass will next appear in court April 25.
Contact Erica Blake at email@example.com or 419-213-2134.