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The futures of a trio of University of Tennessee football players were in the air Thursday as they faced charges that could send them to prison and Vols head coach Lane Kiffin said their status as players was on hold.
Janzen Jackson, Mike Edwards and Nu’Keese Richardson, all 18, were arrested following an alleged armed robbery attempt on Cumberland Avenue, according to the Knoxville Police Department. A female acquaintance and fellow UT student, 22-year-old Marie Montmarquet, also was arrested.
As of late Thursday, all but Richardson had been freed from jail pending Nov. 20 appearances in Knox County General Sessions Court.
“We’ll deal with the three situations coming up,” Kiffin said. “But until we have all the information, I can’t comment any further on it. … We’re gathering all the information, so we don’t know exactly what happened.
“Unfortunately there was an incident. We made it 11 months and 11 days without any. But we’ll deal with this as information comes in.”
Jackson’s bond had initially been set at $15,000, but he was released on his own recognizance Thursday afternoon, according to attorney Don Bosch.
“Mr. Jackson vehemently asserts his innocence and hopes to be able to demonstrate that in the next 24 to 48 hours,” Bosch said.
Montmarquet’s attorney, Gregory P. Isaacs, also issued a statement Thursday.
“Our preliminary investigation reveals that Miss Montmarquet had no knowledge of any of the allegations she has been charged with, and we look forward to speaking with authorities regarding this matter as expeditiously as possible,” he said.
It wasn’t clear if Edwards and Richardson had attorneys. Edwards and Montmarquet were freed on bond Thursday, but Richardson remained jailed in lieu of $19,500 bond, according to a jail official.
UT athletic director Mike Hamilton also released a statement about the episode, saying that university officials are looking into the incident.
“Any decisions or comments regarding their status will not be made until the evaluations are complete,” Hamilton said.
According to KPD spokesman Darrell DeBusk, the incident began at 1:43 a.m. at the Pilot station, 2218 Cumberland Ave., when officers were alerted to an armed robbery in progress.
When officers arrived, they found Cory B. Zickefoose, 20, Benjamin J. Everett, 19, and Corey M. Smith, 18, claiming to have been accosted by two men wearing black hooded sweatshirts.
The trio told officers they were sitting in a 1998 Hyundai Elantra at the convenience store while a friend was inside the business. As they waited for their friend, a man opened the driver’s door, brandished a handgun and stated, “Give me everything you have,” DeBusk said.
A second man then opened the passenger door of the Hyundai and reiterated to the trio, “Give us everything you’ve got,” DeBusk said.
The suspects then got into a 2010 Toyota Prius, which drove away from the scene, DeBusk said. The Prius was stopped a short time later by officers on Neyland Drive after it had been seen near Gibbs Halls.
Police found Edwards, Richardson and Jackson in the car, which was driven by Montmarquet, DeBusk said. UT spokeswoman Karen Collins confirmed that Montmarquet is a student at the university.
A search of the Prius revealed an air-powered pellet pistol under the rear seat. Two black hooded sweatshirts were seen in plain view in the backseat, DeBusk said.
The suspects were taken to the Pilot station, where the three victims identified Edwards and Richardson as the two men who demanded their wallets.
All three men were charged with attempted armed aggravated robbery.
In the glove box of the Prius police found a marijuana grinder, a device to break chunks of compressed marijuana into loose particles so that it can be more easily smoked. Police also found a clear plastic bag of suspected marijuana in Montmarquet’s jacket pocket, DeBusk said.
Montmarquet told police the grinder and marijuana found in her jacket belonged to her, DeBusk said. Along with three counts of attempted aggravated robbery, she also was charged with simple drug possession and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Both Richardson and Jackson were coming off a week in which they faced discipline from Kiffin, the former for missing a practice and the latter for a violation of team rules.
Kiffin has touted the discipline in his program and a clean arrest record as recently as Wednesday’s SEC teleconference.
Richardson is a 5-foot-10, 165-pound wide receiver from Pahokee, Fla. Jackson is a 6-foot, 174-pound defensive back from Lake Charles, La. Edwards is a 5-foot-10 defensive back from Cleveland, Ohio.
J.J. Stambaugh may be reached at 865-342-6307.