DEARBORN HEIGHTS — During a court hearing Wednesday here at the 20th District Court Chief Judge Mark Plawecki was urged to drop the battery and assault charges brought against four senior Arab American football players from Star International Academy.
|The four seniors from Star International Academy who were charged with battery and assault. |
PHOTO: Nick Meyer/TAAN
The players were criminally charged by Dearborn Heights Police and Wayne County. They're being represented by Civil Rights Attorney Nabih Ayad who's also the chairman of the Arab American Civil Rights League (ACRL). “Did they act inappropriately with unsportsmanlike conduct? Yes. Did they act criminal? No.,” Ayad said.
All four students being charged are on the honor roll and have scholarships to some of the region's leading universities. "We can't jeopardize their lives for playing football," said Ayad. He says the civil rights community is up in arms over the charges.
"Whether the civil rights community is up in arms in this case is not an issue," Wayne County Prosecutor Kal Najar said in court arguing back.
Najar told the judge the men's actions went above and beyond ordinary football conduct, and were brutal and unnecessary. "The conduct meets criminal violation," he said. The defense argues the actions are not outside the norm of the sport. Najar asked the judge to let the case go to trial and allow a jury to decide whether the charges should be dropped. He claimed that once the judge watched the video of the incident he would certainly not drop the charges. "The facts are there when you watch the video," Najar said. He noted that one of the students punched the coach after he tried jumping in to protect the players. Judge Plawecki asked Najar to identify any similar incidents in the state where athletes have been criminally charged while playing a sport. Najar was not able to provide one, and said the case could be used as the first instance where charges have been made against players in a game, further telling the judge their must be a first time for everything and that's how laws are created. Responding Ayad said the prosecution was asking the court to be the legislative, executive and judicial branch in creating legislation on the case to be able to charge student athletes.
He discussed incidents that were far worse than the conduct exhibited by the students, and in those cases no one was charged. "We're asking for this matter to be dismissed," Ayad said. The judge did not reach a decision, but is expected to at the next hearing set for Wednesday, April 4 at 9 a.m. The courtroom was packed with students from the Academy and the family members of the men who were charged. Civil rights activists from the NAACP, ACRL, and Council on American Islamic Relations were present to support the students too. "We want to show support to our friends. There is no right to charge someone for playing a game they love," said Khalil Abu-Rayyan a senior at the Academy. ACRL Executive Director, Rashid Baydoun said the investigation into the case was an issue from the beginning because none of the students were ever interviewed. "When I heard the prosecutors argument I thought, 'we have a serious problem here in the U.S. when it comes to civil rights,’" Baydoun said.