'That's bird doo-doo': GSU QB's drug charge off

Mark SchlabachESPN Senior Writer4 Minute Read

Prosecutors in South Carolina on Thursday dropped a cocaine possession charge against Georgia Southern quarterback Shai Werts, who was arrested July 31 after police discovered what they suspected was cocaine on the hood of his car.

Werts, a junior from Clinton, South Carolina, was held out of the Eagles' first two practices while waiting for the results of a university-administered drug test. He returned to practice Sunday after passing that test.

Prosecutors elected to drop the criminal charges Thursday.

In a statement Friday, 11th Judicial Circuit solicitor Rick Hubbard said his office reviewed the police incident report, dash camera video and body camera footage and determined "the charge lacks prosecutorial merit and the evidence is insufficient for the State to proceed."

Werts was fully reinstated to the team Friday morning and is no longer subject to the university's student-athlete code of conduct protocol following the dropped charge, according to a statement from athletic director Tom Kleinlein.

Kleinlein and coach Chad Lunsford determined that the suspension Werts already has served qualifies as enough discipline for a misdemeanor speeding charge.

"I have worked with Shai on a daily basis for three years, and these charges do not reflect the young man I have come to know," Kleinlein said in a statement. "Shai has had our unwavering support throughout this entire process. We are glad to put this incident behind us and focus again on football and the upcoming academic semester."

Werts was driving to his grandmother's house in Clinton when officers pulled him over for speeding. According to the Saluda County Sheriff's Office, Werts waited five minutes to stop his 2016 Dodge Charger. Jones said Werts' parents had told him that during incidents with law enforcement, he shouldn't pull his car over until he reached a well-lit area.

The George-Anne, Georgia Southern's student newspaper, reported Thursday that it had reviewed videotape of Werts' arrest. According to the report, officers discovered a slime-like, white substance on the hood of his car after he was handcuffed and arrested.

An officer tested the substance with a field test kit, and it came up positive for cocaine. The officer who stopped Werts told two other officers: "He threw something out. He had to have."

The officer returned to his police cruiser to talk to Werts.

"What's the white stuff on your hood, man?" the officer asked Werts, according to The George-Anne.

"Bird s---," Werts answered.

"That ain't bird s---," the officer said.

"I promise you, that's bird doo-doo," Werts responded.

"I promise you, it's not, though," the officer said.

"I swear to God, that's bird doo-doo," Werts said.

"I swear to God, it's not," the officer said. "I just tested it, and it turned pink."

The officers took photographs of the hood with their mobile phones and a digital camera. According to The George-Anne, the white substance covered a large area of the Charger's hood.

At one point, the arresting officer said, "Unless the bird inhaled cocaine. ... I'm not sure how to wipe this stuff up."

The Saluda County Sheriff's Office sent the substance to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division for testing, but the results aren't yet known.

"It was never determined that it was cocaine," said Werts' attorney, William Townes Jones IV Jones.

Al Eargle, the deputy solicitor for the 11th Judicial Circuit, told ESPN on Friday that the office made the decision to dismiss the charges even before learning that the substance on Werts' vehicle wasn't a controlled substance.

Eargle said he reaffirmed the test results with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SCLED) on Friday.

"The [SCLED] could not tell us what it was," Eargle said. "The only thing they could tell for certain was it wasn't a controlled substance."

Eargle said that even if the white, slimy substance on the hood had tested positive for cocaine, Werts wouldn't have been charged with a crime.

"Even it had come back [as cocaine], the bottom line is I could not prove that Mr. Werts had knowledge of what the substance was on his vehicle," Eargle said.

Hubbard said his office had started an expungement process to have the charge against Werts removed from the state system to "ensure that this arrest and charge does not create a criminal history for Werts."

Jones said he had never encountered a case quite like this one.

"It's very bizarre," Jones said. "You don't see these. I've been doing this for 30 years, and you don't see ones like these very often. Fortunately, in my view, the appropriate outcome has been reached and in a timely way. I commend the prosecutor for taking the time to get on it."

Werts started 24 games for the Eagles the past two seasons. In 2018, he ran for 908 yards with 15 touchdowns and passed for 987 yards with 10 scores. He hasn't thrown an interception in 119 consecutive passes, a school record.

Georgia Southern opens the season at LSU on Aug. 31 (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU).

ESPN's Adam Rittenberg contributed to this report.

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