Judge blasts accused USF player; has words for coach, too

- A Hillsborough County judge had harsh words for University of South Florida football coach Charlie Strong on Wednesday, before setting a high bond for one of his players accused of sexual battery.

Judge Margaret Taylor, a graduate of USF herself, questioned whether Strong was fit to be coach of a team where two players have been arrested for “very violent felonies.”

Taylor made her comments as LaDarrius Jackson made his first appearance in court, accused of sexual battery and false imprisonment. 

“If these allegations are true,” she said to Jackson, “I must say your behavior is nothing short of outrageous.”

According to a police report, a 19-year-old woman says Jackson forced her into her room – which is on campus – then tried to force her to perform oral sex.  A news release from USF police says she reported the incident immediately.  Jackson was arrested Monday night, just hours later.

In court Wednesday, his defense attorney argued for a $5,000 bond, saying Jackson has cooperated with the investigators, isn’t a flight risk, and has a support network to make sure he sticks to the court’s orders.  The judge, however, went with the state’s recommendation – setting bond at $100,000, and making her own feelings well known.

“I graduated from USF in 1989, long before there was a football team,” she said, speaking directly to Jackson. “I was never ashamed of being an alum until now.  Let’s just say my USF diploma is not proudly hanging in my office right now."

Taylor referenced the case of USF’s Hassan Childs, who was kicked off the team in March after he was shot during a suspected road rage incident and later arrested.

Jackson has been suspended while the school awaits the outcome of the investigation.  Coach Strong released a statement yesterday calling the allegations “troubling,” but that may not have been good enough for Judge Taylor.

“Coach Strong, if you are listening,” she added in court, “in the last couple months there have been two arrests of your players for very violent felonies.  This court questions whether you have control over your players.”

Taylor also questioned whether Strong – who was just hired in December – should even be leading the team.

“I implore you to think long and hard about whether being head coach at USF is a good fit for you, before any other members of this community has to suffer at the hands of one of your players.”

This afternoon, the university issued the following statement on behalf of Coach Strong:

"In the short time I have been here our program has been built on character, discipline and family. We have wonderful young men in the USF football program who choose to do the right thing every day. We are dedicated to recruiting young men of high character, and to consistently developing them with structure and frequent education regarding appropriate conduct and behavior, on and off the playing field. While I am shocked and saddened at the recent arrest of a member of our team, I am disappointed that the actions of two players over the last two months have harmed the reputation of our program, of our wonderful university and of my character.  We have high expectations of our coaches, staff and student-athletes and we hold accountable those who act contrary to our values." 

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