This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

  Follow Rayno on Twitter @AmeliaRayno

Witnesses supporting Trevor Mbakwe forcing delays in trial

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under Gophers players Updated: November 26, 2009 - 1:02 AM

What's up, folks? 

Sorry this is a day late.

Last week, a Miami court gave Gophers power forward Trevor Mbakwe a Jan. 7 pre-trial date, when his lawyer and prosecutors will give a judge an update on the status of his case. That wipes out the previous Dec. 14 trial date and seems to make it even more likely that Mbakwe will miss all, if not the majority of the 2009-10 season.

But Smith told ESPN.com's Andy Katz that he believes Mbakwe's case will be dropped soon and as a result, Mbakwe will play soon.

Mbakwe is charged with felony battery after an alleged assault on a female in April in Miami. He's always maintained his innocence. His greatest problem, however, is getting the witnesses who can support his alibi to find the time to fly to Miami for his pending trial.

Following a win over Utah Valley last week, Tubby Smith said Mbakwe wasn't on the team's bench because of a "change" in his case. He didn't elaborate. But new court documents indicate that a number of factors are pushing Mbakwe's trial back.

Mbakwe's roommate at Miami Dade community college, Kentucky guard Darnell Dodson, is a key witness in the case. He's averaging 12.0 points per game for the Wildcats.

Mbakwe's lawyer, Gregory Samms, encountered unexpected challenges when he tried to secure Dodson's testimony earlier this month. That was when the trial was still scheduled for Dec. 14. 

Samms "is having extreme difficulty getting through the school administration and the office of Coach John Calipari in order to attempt to arrange for Mr. Dodson to be available during the week of the 14th in Miami," according to court documents.

Samms has asked the court to allow him to secure Dodson's testimony via "electronic means," since he'll have a tough time getting down to Miami during the college basketball season.

Mbakwe's former coach, Matthew Dunn, has also informed Samms that he'd have a hard time getting down to Miami. Dunn's an assistant with Memphis now.

"Mr. Dunn indicated that it was utterly impossible for him to be here during that week due to the fact of intense practices and basketball games during that week and because of his new position at the University of Memphis he would not be able to leave."

Samms makes it clear that he wants to obtain the testimonies of Dunn and Dodson so that Mbakwe's trial "can proceed as expeditiously as possible."

Mbakwe's alibi states that he was home when a woman says he assaulted her in the parking lot of their Miami apartment complex. But his lawyer recently submitted more evidence that he says supports Mbakwe's alibi: 

1. "Phone records from April 3, 2009, for the phone being used by Trevor Mbakwe on the night in question."

2. "A Facebook threat sent to defendant by an anonymous person on April 3rd at 1:34 p.m."

3. Photographs of text messages between the defendant and [his fiancee] on April 3, 2009."

A Gophers source told me earlier this month that text messages and phone records could play a major role in Mbakwe's case.

Mbakwe's mother told police in April that he left Miami the day of the alleged assault because he'd received threats.

In other developments surrounding Mbakwe's case, his lawyer has also had trouble tracking down the alleged victim to secure her testimony.

From court docs: "The alleged victim ... was attempted to be served on this Tuesday, November 10, and the undersigned was informed by his process server that [the alleged victim] no longer lived at that apartment. ... The process server also went to the apartment complex offices and it was confirmed by the offices that [the alleged victim] has moved from this address.  ...

Samms requested the state's assistance in tracking down the central person in Mbakwe's case.

-Smith said Tuesday that Devron Bostick, Royce White and Mbakwe are still suspended as the Gophers prepare for the 76 Classic, which begins Thursday.

-White's trial for shoplifting and fifth-degree assault has been moved to Dec. 2 (next Tuesday).

-I got a call from the Associated Press, after I wrote a blog about the state of Minnesota losing its vote in the AP Top 25 poll. I was told that the change is not "permanent" and that the state could regain its vote as early as next season.

-The Gophers left for Anaheim Tuesday afternoon. According to Al Nolen's tweets, they'll make a stop at Disneyland during their trip for the 76 Classic.

-Check out my 76 Classic preview on startribune.com here.

And here.

 

 

 

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