Sheridan College student's ouster questioned

Sheridan College student's ouster questioned

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Associated Press

SHERIDAN, Wyo. (AP) - A Sheridan College Booster Club member and others dislike how college administrators dismissed a student before his criminal case was resolved in court.

Ronnie Davis Jr. was charged in January with felony forgery and misdemeanor battery, criminal trespassing and larceny for entering a dorm room without permission and forging a check for $289.

Davis pleaded guilty in Sheridan County Circuit Court on Feb. 14 to two misdemeanors: larceny and obtaining property through false pretenses.

Before that happened, however, the basketball player was kicked out of school, causing some to wonder if the college found Davis guilty before he had a chance to prove himself innocent.

"The American way is you're innocent until proven guilty," Booster Club member Bart Osthoff said. "Other booster club members we have talked to are in complete disbelief."

Osthoff said he told his concerns to President Steve Maier.

"I told him I was a little disgusted on their action. He told me that they take a proactive view on issues to ensure the protection and well-being of the rest of the students," he said.

Maier said the college followed its policy and procedures handbook in Davis' case, just as it does with any student accused of violating the school's rules of conduct.

"Our disciplinary process is separate from whatever happens in the legal world and I think we did everything correctly," Maier said. "We do expect our students to behave correctly. If that doesn't happen, we take what we believe is appropriate action."

Davis was placed on six months probation, ordered to pay $443 in restitution to the college and the check's rightful owners, and ordered to stay off the campus.

Osthoff said he does not intend to downplay the seriousness of the crimes but thinks Davis should have been allowed to finish his court case before he was kicked out.

"He was stripped of his athletic scholarship and his opportunity to get an education before he had his day in court, and he wasn't even found guilty of the felony," he said.

Osthoff said his family participates in the college's adopt-an-athlete program and housed Davis, of Beaumont, Texas, for several days after he was barred from campus.

"Ronnie called us out of desperation. He was told he needed to be off campus and he didn't have a place to go. That took a lot of courage on his part to say he needed help," he said.

Osthoff said he arranged Davis to stay with Sheridan residents Stacia and Drew Mason as his case went through court.

Stacia Mason said she became upset upon learning that Davis had been dismissed from school before his court case was complete.

"Those things were backwards to me. He should have been presumed innocent until proven guilty," she said.

Davis returned to Texas last weekend after Osthoff gave him money for a bus ticket and food.

"They didn't know if I was guilty or not guilty. At least they could have waited for my day in court. I think I was wronged. They basically put me out on the streets," Davis said.

His parents, Ronnie and Benita Davis, both said they are upset college officials did not call to inform them what was going on before kicking their son out of school.

"The college looked at this like everything happened, like he was guilty of everything. They didn't investigate," Benita Davis said.

Ronnie Davis Jr. was looking forward to putting the case behind him.

"I'm glad I made it home and now I can move on. I'm looking forward to getting back into school next fall and continuing my career in basketball. We're already calling some colleges and some have already called here," he said.

Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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