BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Hours after a judge decided against sending Jeremy Hill to jail for a probation violation, LSU’s leading running back last season apologized to his teammates and then joined them at practice.
“We waited for legal system to act,” coach Les Miles said after Monday afternoon’s practice. “They’ve spoken very strongly to Jeremy Hill. That being said, he’s free to do things that everybody would do in this community: Attend college, play college football.”
Miles stressed that Hill would face further punishment from coaches which will be handled internally, leaving open the possibility that Hill could be forced to sit out some games. However, Miles declined to specify how many games, if any, Hill may have to miss.
“He owes this school, this team, this community, his best behavior,” Miles said. “We’re not certain about further punishment, but there will be some.”
Hill was suspended indefinitely after his arrest more than three months ago, and Miles said he was reinstated only after his teammates voted him back on the squad.
“He’s our brother. We still talk to him, still encourage him, still love him,” offensive tackle La’el Collins said. “I’m pretty sure he’s humbled and he’s worked everything out. He’s seen the effect that it’s taken on him and he’s going to make better decisions.”
Hill’s arrest marked the third straight season that a key LSU player has been in trouble during the offseason. Two seasons ago, Jordan Jefferson was involved in a bar fight resulting in a four-game suspension that was lifted after he was charged was reduced to a misdemeanor. Last year, former Heisman Trophy candidate Tryann Mathieu was dismissed just a few days into August camp for failing repeated drug tests.
“The reality is, we’re people and you can see it. We’re flawed. Every one of us. Hopefully we learn by our mistakes and we improve,” Miles said. “Jeremy Hill certainly has a chance to do that — strongly.”
Shortly before Miles spoke, Hill offered a short public apology, but did not take any questions.
“I want to thank coach Miles and this university for giving me another chance,” he said. “I made a poor choice in judgment. But since then I have learned from that mistake and moving forward I will continue to be a better person, continue to be a better teammate and continue to be a role model for the kids in the community.”
Hill was caught on video punching a man outside a bar last spring. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery — a violation of his probation from an earlier misdemeanor stemming from his sexual relationship with a then-14-year-old girl at his high school.
During Monday’s hearing, State District Judge Bonnie Jackson was scheduled to review more restrictive terms she attached to Hill’s first probation — including a 9 p.m to 6 a.m. curfew and bar ban — in May, shortly after Hill’s late-April arrest. Jackson also decided to take up prosecutors’ motion, filed last month, to revoke Hill’s probation. Her decision to do so came on the first day of LSU practice.
While Jackson kept Hill on probation, she added 40 hours of community service to his sentence while also agreeing to curfew flexibility when Hill needs to be out for football, including games and travel.
The judge also admonished Hill for the “arrogance” he displayed on the video and told Hill that is why many wanted to see him jailed.
“To see you laughing about having sucker-punched that young man struck people as being extremely arrogant. It struck people as seeing someone who felt they had a sense of entitlement: ‘I’m Jeremy Hill and I can do whatever I want to do. Ha, ha, ha,’” Jackson said. “Bar fights happen all the time. I don’t think if this had just been a bar fight people’s emotions would have been worked up as much as they were.”
However, Jackson also told the 20-year-old Hill that she understands young people make “immature decisions — but do you learn from those?”
Hill said he was “terribly sorry” and that he “let my emotions get the best of me.” He stressed that he is now focused on church, his family, hanging around “better people” and aims to help “teach younger people to not be in situations like I have.”
Hill’s earlier probation stemmed from his January 2012 guilty plea to misdemeanor carnal knowledge of a juvenile. That plea deal allowed him to avoid felony charges and enroll at LSU. The bar scuffle ultimately led to the second probation term, along with a second six-month suspended sentence.
District attorney Hillar Moore said he respected Jackson’s decision, but thought revoking probation was in order, given that after Hill’s first arrest, prosecutors assured Hill’s teenage victim and her mother that Hill would go to jail if he ran afoul of the law again.
Moore also sounded skeptical about whether Hill’s apology in court was genuine, but hoped the running back would make the most of his second chance.
“He spoke about how things have changed,” Moore began, but added “I’m not sure how much change you can make” in the few months since the arrest.
Hill rushed for 755 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012, his freshman season. Hill got increased playing time after season-opening starter Alfred Blue went out with a season-ending knee injury in LSU’s third game. Blue has returned this season, as has junior running back Kenny Hilliard.