| ||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
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
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
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
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?"