LSU's Hill pleads guilty to misdemeanor battery
- Suspended LSU running back Jeremy Hill has pleaded guilty to simple battery
- It was in connection with a bar fight in April
- Video captured Hill punching another man in the side of the head
BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU tailback Jeremy Hill has eluded the first two waves of legal tacklers, but he still must get through the secondary without fumbling to avoid jail time.
Hill, who had one of the best freshman seasons for a tailback in LSU history in 2012 with 755 yards and a freshman record 12 touchdowns in just five starts, remains in danger of missing some or all of the 2013 season after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges for the second time in 18 months on Friday.
District Judge Mike Erwin could have sentenced Hill to as many as six months in jail on Friday on a simple battery charge from an incident on April 27 outside Reggie's bar near the LSU campus in which Hill punched Connor Baldridge. Instead, Erwin sentenced Hill to two years of supervised probation and 50 hours of community service among other orders.
Hill, whom LSU coach Les Miles suspended from the football team indefinitely on April 29, next will face District Judge Bonnie Jackson on Aug. 16 for violating his one-year probation from a previous guilty plea in January of 2012. That was for a charge of misdemeanor carnal knowledge of a 14-year-old girl when Hill was still at Redemptorist High in Baton Rouge in December of 2010.
"She could add conditions to his probation or she could give him up to six months in jail," Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore said Friday. "But that's all up to the judge."
Jackson ruled on Hill's previous charge, which was downgraded from felony oral battery of the 14-year-old girl, and he received one-year probation instead of jail time then.
"Do you read the newspaper?," Erwin asked Hill before sentencing him.
"No sir," Hill replied.
"Maybe you should. You can find out that you're about this far away from ruining your life," Erwin said as he held his index finger millimeters from his thumb. "I watched Cecil Collins play football at LSU, and he was one of the best running backs in the history of LSU football. He ended up spending 13 years in jail."
Collins, a native of Leesville nicknamed "Cecil the Diesel," gained a LSU freshman record 232 yards against Auburn in 1997 and had 596 yards in just four games before breaking his leg at Vanderbilt. Before the '98 season, though, he was kicked off the team after his second arrest for illegally entering females' dwellings.
He was then kicked off of McNeese State's team after failing a drug test. A fifth round selection in the 1999 NFL Draft by Miami, Collins played in eight games before being arrested for committing burglary at a woman acquaintance's home and sentenced to 15 years. A judge ruled this week that Collins could be a free man within weeks.
"He had a chance to be special," Erwin said. "You have that chance, but you're going down the wrong road. You follow me?"
Hill said yes.
Cellular phone video from an eyewitness of Hill's latest incident was released Friday by the Baton Rouge District Attorney's office. The video shows Hill creeping up behind Baldridge, who was walking away in the parking lot near Reggie's bar. Hill catches up to Baldridge, positions himself, rares back and strikes Baldridge with his fist on the side of the head. A staggering Baldridge is then finished off with a punch by Robert Bayardo that sent Baldridge to the ground unconscious. Baldridge did not suffer major injuries, though.
Hill and Bayardo high five after the combination to Baldridge, and Hill staggers away to the cheers of some witnesses. Hill and Bayardo received similar sentences for their guilty pleas to simple battery.
"That video is telltale," Moore said. "It's what people do when people are not looking. In this case, those two individuals didn't think anybody was looking, but a camera was."
Miles has seen that video, LSU associate athletic director Michael Bonnette said Friday after speaking to Miles.
"The suspension remains as it is," Bonnette said. "Coach Miles wants to see this go through the legal system before he decides what to do."
According to prosecuting attorney Sue Bernie, the video proved that the incident was not just a bar fight. "It was definitely not a bar fight," she said. "He (Baldridge) was cold cocked and hit from behind by Hill."
Moore's and Bernie's desire for jail time for Hill was tempered by Baldridge and his family, who did not demand jail time for Hill and Bayardo.
"They showed a lot of compassion," Moore said. "They didn't want to stand in the way of Hill's future."
Hill's attorney, Marci Blaize, had little to say.
"No jail time - not on this one," she said.
In addition to the two years of supervised probation and community service, Erwin kept the 9 p.m. curfew on Hill that Judge Jackson added following the April 27 arrest. Hill can stay out past the curfew for "football related activities," Erwin said, but he cannot go to bars or drink.
Erwin also ordered Hill to split Baldridge's medical bills with Bayardo at $375 apiece, ordered him to avoid all contact with Baldridge, including through social media, ordered him not to comment to the media about the incident and ordered him to write a letter of apology to his probation officer and to enroll in anger management classes.
Guilbeau also writes for Gannett Louisiana.