CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Linebacker Matt Sinclair, Illinois'
leading tackler, and tackle Ryan Matha, another returning starter,
were charged Monday with aggravated battery stemming from a weekend
bar fight, prosecutors said.
Sinclair, 22, and Matha, 21, were accused of tackling and
punching Jamaal L. Applewhite, 19, of Champaign, according to court
documents. Applewhite also was charged with aggravated battery
and accused of hitting Sinclair on the head with a beer bottle,
according to the court papers.
The three men were arrested shortly after 1:30 a.m. Saturday
when officers were called to a bar near campus, said Champaign
police spokeswoman Joan Walls. She declined to release any details
of the fight.
Aggravated battery is a Class 3 felony, which carries a penalty
of 2 to 5 years in prison, according to Illinois law.
Matha and Applewhite were treated at an Urbana hospital for
minor injuries before being taken to jail, Walls said. All three
were released on bond Saturday, according to the Champaign County
Illini coach Ron Turner declined to comment on the arrests or
whether he was planning any disciplinary action, said team
spokeswoman Cassie Arner.
"We can't really talk when there's legal issues at hand,"
Arner said. "We need to let the legal process play out."
Sinclair, a 6-3, 245-pound senior, led the Illini in tackles
last season with 129 and earned honorable mention Big Ten honors.
Matha, a 6-3, 300-pound junior, started the final eight games
last season after returning from a knee injury that forced him to
miss five games in 2002.
Practice for the fall season starts next week, and Sinclair had
been scheduled to attend Big Ten media day in Chicago this week but
will not make the trip, Arner said. Running back E.B. Halsey will
go in his place, she said.