An hour and fifteen minutes after Illini basketball spokesman Derrick Burson alerted the media (via email) that Darius Paul had been suspended for the entire 2014-15 season; University of Illinois spokesman Tom Hardy emailed me a PDF of the police report documenting Paul’s arrest (embedded below).
This report had been withheld from the May 9 response to my FOIA inquiry on the grounds that the Paul investigation was still considered open and ongoing. This morning, Paul pleaded guilty to underage consumption. His charge of resisting a peace officer was dropped. The hearing was scheduled for Friday, but Cliff Paul Sr. says the family took advantage of an open court date to avoid the “circus.”
The two most thrilling words in the Paul report are, or seem to be, red herrings. They are “cocaine” and “DMT.” DMT is “a powerful hallucinogenic drug.”
Paul is not charged with any drug offenses.
One officer’s official report supposes that Paul was out looking to get some DMT. Another officer’s report contradicts that supposition, saying Paul was trying to get away from a guy who was attempting to sell DMT to him. This was the mysterious second suspect, the one who eluded police.
A third officer (not involved in the pursuit or arrest) filed a report about a plastic bag. He describes finding the bag on the spot where Paul was tackled. He describes field-testing the bag for cocaine.
The report reveals that Paul was tackled just outside his apartment building. Had he made it inside, he might have retained his athletic scholarship for the 2014-15 season. Considering the dollar value of that year’s tuition, room and board, and the potential dollar value of a successful high-major college basketball career, one begins to understand Paul’s reasons for avoiding police contact.
Paul was also slightly injured in the altercation. Police photographed his wrists to document the extent of damage caused by handcuffing.
Despite the charge of underage consumption, Paul’s age is listed as 23. His name is given as Paul G. Darius, which is scratched out and replaced by a handwritten correction. His height is listed as “609” while his description radioed to METCAD (thus initiating the chase) was “approximately 6’4”
The chase and arrest was initiated by officer Michelle Ortiz, whose report describes her interest beginning when she observed “a white male who appeared to be intoxicated.” University FOIA officers redacted Paul’s race, but did not obscure the description of the “white male.”
Officer Ortiz specifies the location of her attention as being “the alley south of the Illini Arcade.” Illini Arcade is an adult novelty and media retail store. A search for [“Illini Arcade” + “personals”] on the front page of chambana.craigslist,org directs the user to the “casual encounters” page.
Was Ortiz specifically monitoring foot traffic around the Illini Arcade?
It’s possible that the university’s Division of Public Safety pays special attention to a meeting place for homosexual men. But unlike the old days of vice squad persecution, this attention would ostensibly be for the benefit of Arcade clients, rather than harassment of them.
U of I police chief Jeff Christensen said there’s no particular focus on the Illini Arcade as a locus of criminal activity.
Our officers regularly patrol the entire campus district which includes the area surrounding 25 E. Springfield Avenue. Although officers have extended jurisdiction and patrol duties beyond this area, we define the campus district as extending from University Avenue on the north to Windsor Road on the south, Race Street on the east and the railroad tracks just east of Neil Street on the west. Officer Ortiz and Officer Age were in this area as part of their general patrol responsibilities when the behavioral observations were viewed as documented in the report. Historically, there have been higher rates of robberies and batteries within the northwest quadrant of the campus district.
This video (originally published in Saturday’s report on Kenichi Townsend’s arrest) shows the proximity of Paul’s apartment to the South China parking lot where Ortiz was staked out.
The lot is on the west aide of the detention basin. The apartment building is on the east side. The Illini Arcade is on the north side.
That John Groce changed direction, suspending Paul before the legal process had run its course, might be the most interesting aspect of this case from the big picture perspective of Illini basketball.
Groce’s first statement, issued the same date as Paul’s arrest, says ““We need to let the legal process run its course, and then will determine appropriate disciplinary action.”
Instead, Groce revoked Paul’s scholarship and banned him from all team-related activities just three days before Paul’s hearing was scheduled, and a day before it actually took place.
Here’s the press release on Paul’s suspension.
Fighting Illini Basketball
Paul Suspended for 2014-15 Season
Champaign, Ill.–University of Illinois head basketball coach John Groce announced today that sophomore forward Darius Paul (Gurnee, Ill.) has been suspended for the upcoming season.
“After a thorough review of Darius’ year, which includes multiple transgressions, I am suspending Darius from all team-related activities for the entire 2014-15 season,” Groce said. “As head coach, my concerns are always what is best for the University of Illinois, what is best for the men’s basketball program, and what is best for our student-athletes as people. I feel this penalty is necessary to help Darius as a person. We will continue to support him through this process.”
“Support” does not include an athletic scholarship.