Much of what happens to Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe on Friday depends on whether his defense attorney can make a deal with the prosecutor, said Miami area defense attorney Adam D. Mait. But if the case gets to the judge, there will likely be some jail time for Mbakwe, Mait said.
Mbakwe is on probation in Florida, where he was found guilty after pleading no contest in February to a felony battery charge from 2009. At a status report hearing Wednesday, triggered by Mbakwe's September DUI conviction in Minnesota, a probation violation hearing was set for Friday morning. Mait is not associated with Mbakwe’s case, but he is familiar both with the case and with the presiding judge, Jose Fernandez, and provided a synopsis of the scenarios that are possible on Friday morning.
Mbakwe’s attorney, Gregory Samms, is not commenting to the media. He said Thursday he has “nothing to say.”
Mait said Florida uses a point system to determine minimum sentence guidelines, and based on the points Mbakwe has accumulated for his offenses he could be in for a long prison sentence.
But according to Mait, this scenario is more likely: Samms will approach the prosecutor ahead of Friday’s hearing and try to work out a deal to present to the judge. This could include an alternative to jail time, such as community control (house arrest). Or it could include a modification of the probation itself, to include, for example a 30-day jail sentence (30 days being an arbitrary length).
“Generally, as long as the state’s (prosecutor) offer is a reasonable offer, the judge is going to go with whatever the state’s OK with,” Mait said.
Additionally, in lieu of a deal, the judge could decide on his own to modify the probation – which the judge technically owns, Mait said. That means he could change the probation to include additional probation time, house arrest or jail time (but less time than the otherwise required).
Currently, the prosecutor for the hearing remains unlisted, so there isn’t much to go on regarding what a realistic deal could be.
“Without seeing all the facts of the case – what the victim actually wanted, why the original plea offer was offered, it’s difficult to say what the state will offer,” Mait said. “What I can tell you, if he goes though the probation violation hearing and is found to be responsible to have violated, the judge has little discretion on the sentencing range.”
That said, Mait has been in front of Fernandez both as a prosecutor and now as a defense attorney and had this to say of him:
“Judge Fernandez is fair. He looks at all the facts. And I’m sure whatever resolution he gives will be a just resolution.”
What also remains unclear is whether the results of Friday’s hearing will impact Mbakwe’s standing on the team. Mbakwe was held out of some summer activities after his DUI, but head coach Tubby Smith allowed him to return to the team.
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