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Coach and Jury
Michael Farber
September 25, 1995
Nebraska players charged with crimes have a steadfast ally in the man who runs the program, Tom Osborne
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September 25, 1995

Coach And Jury

Nebraska players charged with crimes have a steadfast ally in the man who runs the program, Tom Osborne

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•Riley Washington, a junior wingback, continues to practice with the Cornhuskers despite having been charged with attempted second-degree murder and use of a weapon to commit a felony in connection with the Aug. 2 shooting of 22-year-old Jermaine Cole at a Lincoln convenience store. Cole told Lincoln police that he and Nebraska undergraduate assistant football coach Abdul Muhammad were fighting when Washington pulled his gun and fired, saying, "Your life is gone." On Sept. 11, two days before Washington pleaded not guilty to both counts, Osborne said, "I think there is a very, very good chance that Riley didn't do what he's accused of. I've talked to a lot of people.... I feel pretty comfortable about Riley's case."

On Sept. 13, Osborne told reporters, "At the preliminary hearing, the primary witness against Riley, the individual who was shot, indicated that Riley was wearing a polo shirt with three buttons and a hat. Riley was wearing a T-shirt, entirely a different color, and did not have a hat on. Another witness...could not identify Riley as the shooter."

Lacey told SI, "I didn't see Osborne at the preliminary hearing. We had two witnesses say, 'Riley Washington shot Jermaine Cole. I saw the gun. I saw him do it.' "

Why has Osborne involved himself so deeply in the Washington affair? "Because I'm going to have to make a call on Riley, and I can't wait until the case goes to trial in February," he says. "If I keep him out, and it turns out he's innocent, he will have lost a whole year. On the other hand, if I let him play, and later he's found guilty, that wouldn't be good either. What was I supposed to do?"

•Tyrone Williams, a senior cornerback, was charged in March 1994 with two felonies—unlawful discharge of a firearm and use of a weapon to commit a felony—in connection with a Jan. 30, 1994, shooting. Police say that Williams fired two shots into a car occupied by former New York Jet safety Kevin Porter, who was in town visiting friends. Porter was not hit. After the shooting, but before Williams was charged, then-Nebraska assistant Kevin Steele was given Williams's .22 caliber revolver. Then Steele and Osborne locked the gun in a cabinet.

"When the chief of police and I learned that a gun wanted in connection with a felony shooting was in Osborne's possession when it should have been immediately turned over to the police, then you have evidence that is being withheld," Lacey says.

When his actions came to light, Osborne said, "Frankly, if anybody had asked, we would have given it to them sooner. No charges had been filed, so we didn't think anybody was anxious about it." Osborne has said all along that he notified campus police about the gun. Last week Osborne conceded in an interview with SI that prosecutors were probably looking for the gun at the time he filed it away. "The weapon was missing when we asked [Williams] to get it. If we hadn't made him give us the gun, the police might never have gotten it."

Williams pleaded not guilty. His lawyer is awaiting a ruling on a motion to drop one of the charges. Meanwhile, he is playing, a fact Osborne defends by noting that since Williams was raised by his grandmother, the athletic department has taken a parental role in supporting him.

•Christian Peter, a senior defensive tackle, was sentenced to 18 months probation in May 1994 after he pleaded no contest to a charge of third-degree sexual assault brought by a former Miss Nebraska, Natalie Kuijvenhoven, who was then a Nebraska student. According to Osborne, Kuijvenhoven's lawyer contacted him about Peter, and Osborne says he suggested that all the parties—including Peter—meet in his office at the athletic department. But Kuijvenhoven would have none of it. "It's clear Osborne was trying to intimidate me in order to get rid of me before a trial would ever happen," Kuijvenhoven told SI. Osborne says he has never pressured a witness.

Osborne says that Peter, a Cornhusker captain, has been "a model guy" since completing a private program that no one at Nebraska can discuss in any detail.

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