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 Wednesday, October 11
Camara won't play for Wildcats this season
 Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- University of Kentucky basketball player Jules Camara was found guilty of drunken driving Tuesday, ending his hopes of returning to the Wildcats this season.

The five-woman, one-man Fayette County jury heard nearly five hours of testimony and deliberated for an hour before returning the verdict and imposing a $200 fine.

Camara, a 6-foot-11 native of Senegal, was arrested in the early morning hours of Sept. 3 after a Lexington police officer spotted him driving erratically in the narrow circle drive of a south Lexington townhome community.

Officer John Ruzzene said he smelled alcohol in the car and on Camara's breath. He then administered a series of field sobriety tests, which he said Camara failed, and arrested him.

Camara refused a blood test at a local hospital and refused to answer any questions at the jail until he had spoken to an attorney.

Under Kentucky's no-tolerance alcohol policy, Camara was suspended from the team immediately following the arrest. With the conviction, he stands to lose his scholarship but could return to the team next year. Last year, he averaged 7.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game and blocked 51 shots in 31 games.

Camara, dressed in a gray suit and red tie, displayed no emotion as Fayette District Judge Maria Ransdell read the verdict. His attorney, Jim Lowry, told the judge he would file a motion to appeal.

Following the verdict, Camara was hustled out of the courtroom into a waiting sports utility vehicle. Neither Lowry nor prosecutor Denotra Gunther made any comments to a courtroom full of reporters.

Kentucky athletics director Larry Ivy and Kentucky basketball coach Tubby Smith could not immediately be reached for comment. Associate sports information director Brooks Downing released a statement Tuesday night saying the school would have no comment.

The prosecution argued that Camara obviously was intoxicated and that, after being pulled over, he jumped into the back seat in an attempt to deceive the arresting officer.

Ruzzene and officer Tim Ball also testified that one of two passengers in the vehicle fled the scene while Ball was attempting to restrain a crowd of onlookers.

The defense, however, produced a parade of witnesses that refuted many of the officers' claims.

Michael Stewart, one of the passengers in the vehicle, testified that Camara was not driving at a high rate of speed and did not come close to hitting a parked car. He also testified that he watched Camara take the field sobriety tests and saw nothing improper.

The other passenger, Bob Griffith, was accused by police of fleeing the scene. But both Stewart and Griffith testified that Ball told Griffith to leave.

"He told me 'Get out of the car. I don't want to see your face,' " Griffith said. "So I walked across the street, about 25 or 30 feet away, and watched what was going on. I don't know why he told me to leave."

Several witnesses, including Camara, testified that he'd only had one beer as he and several others, including Stewart and Griffith, watched the Kentucky-Louisville football game at Griffith's apartment earlier that evening.

Several others testified that they saw never saw Camara drink anything at Lexington's Two Keys Tavern following the game.

Camara said he jumped into the back seat of his rented car because he was afraid of losing his scholarship and that he refused the blood test because he did not want his parents to find out he had been drinking, which goes against his family's religious beliefs.

Lowry suggested that Ruzzene might have been guilty of racial profiling and pulled Camara over because he was a young black man driving a brand new car with out-of-state license plates in a predominantly white section of town.

"Did (Ruzzene) pull him over for his race? I don't know," Lowry said during his closing statement. "Is (Ruzzene) a racist? I don't know. Does that create a reasonable doubt? It should."

Gunther, however, appealed to the jury's sensibilities.

"If you're not guilty, what do you have to fear?," she said. "Why jump in the back seat? And why not take the blood test?"