Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe, who was suspended last season due to legal trouble, has been reinstated by Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi, according to a Thursday press release.
"This process has been difficult and I am relieved it is finally being resolved,” Maturi said. “It’s now time to move on and I am glad that he is going to have an opportunity to be a member of our basketball program with two years of eligibility remaining.”
Mbakwe can begin practicing with the team Aug. 21, prior to the team's September trip to Canada for a set of exhibitions.
Maturi's decision followed a major development in Mbakwe's case.
After more than a year of delays in his felony assault case, Mbakwe has decided against going to trial and will enroll in a pre-trial program for first-time offenders. Once Mbakwe completes the Pre-Trial Intervention Program, the state will drop its case against him and he will not have a criminal record.
Mbakwe has to perform 100 hours of community service, make a $100 donation to a Florida facility for abuse victims and stay away from the woman who accused him of assaulting her in Miami last year, according to Miami district attorney spokesperson Terry Chavez.
"After lengthy defense continuances in this case (which primarily appear to have been based around the defense’s desire to depose every witness listed in the case and develop their own expert witnesses----which is their right), Mr. Mbakwe has decided that the PTI Program is the most appropriate disposition for this case," Chavez said via e-mail.
Mbakwe was suspended last season due to his legal situation. Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi has maintained his stance that Mbakwe will not play for the Gophers until he resolves his legal issues, although he recently said he'd be willing to reconsider if there were new developments in his case.
When asked about Mbakwe's status for next season, Maturi told the Star Tribune that the athletic department will release a statement Thursday afternoon.
But Mbakwe is currently considering a transfer to another school. He said he's happy about the latest development with his case and believes he'll play during the 2010-11 season. But he's not sure he's going to stay with the Gophers.
"I feel great," Mbakwe said via text. "I wish I could have just got it dropped completely without having to do community service but it will have to do for now."
He added: "I haven't made a 100 [percent] decision yet on that," he said when asked about where he will play next season.
Chavez said the program takes about six months to complete. By entering the program, however, Mbakwe is not saying he's guilty, Chavez said.
"It's not an admission of guilt at all," Chavez said.
Mbakwe's lawyer, Gregory Samms, said the prosecution offered the pre-trial program as an alternative to trial because their "case is crumbled."
"They don’t offer this on felony cases," he said.
Samms also said the prosecutor told him that the victim recently revealed that a Miami cop told her to say that she knew Mbakwe before the assault in order to "bolster her case." Samms said he's been told that Miami officials are investigating the victim's claim and the officer involved.