KNOXVILLE - University of Tennessee football player Janzen Jackson walked out of court today cleared of attempted aggravated robbery charges, but his status on the team's up to another authority.
"That's up to Coach (Lane) Kiffin," said Jackson's lawyer, Don Bosch.
Prosecutors announced this morning they had dropped charges against Jackson and the woman accused of acting as a getaway driver in a botched holdup Nov. 12 outside the Pilot convenience store on Cumberland Avenue. Charges against two former players, Nu'Keese Richardson, 18, and Mike Edwards, 18, still stand, according to Randy Nichols, Knox County district attorney general.
Richardson, Edwards, and Jackson, 18, faced charges of attempted aggravated robbery after Knoxville police said they tried to hold up three men outside the store around 1:45 a.m. Fellow UT student Montmarquet, 22, faced charges of attempted aggravated robbery and of possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
The drug charges against Montmarquet will proceed, prosecutors said.
Montmarquet, whose lawyer described her as a pre-law student, said she's just glad to have the robbery case over.
"This was not a plea bargain," said defense lawyer Gregory P. Isaacs. "It's unfortunate that she had to go through this ordeal."
Edwards and Richardson will return to court Jan. 20 for a preliminary hearing. Jackson went free.
Jackson's lawyer, Don Bosch, said he never left the back seat of Montmarquet's car at the Pilot and didn't know what had happened until he was on the way back to Gibbs Hall.
"There was no deal cut to testify," Bosch said. "If he's called to court, he will testify that he didn't see anything."
Bosch said surveillance video from the Pilot played a key role in clearing Jackson.
"I frankly think it could have happened sooner," he said.
Edwards' lawyer, David Eldridge, and Richardson's lawyer, Jamie Poston, said they're preparing for the January hearing and not ready to discuss details of the case.
"He's a good kid, and there's a lot more to this case than meets the eye," said Richardson's lawyer, Poston.
Nichols said in a press release that the decision "was made after an intensive investigation by the Knoxville Police Department, numerous interviews of persons with any relevant information on these charges and reviews of more than 10 hours of video and audio records related to the charges."
"The investigation and careful review of all relevant evidence failed to show ... Ms. Montmarquet or Mr. Jackson had prior knowledge that the attempted robbery was going to take place and were unaware something had occurred until after they pulled out of the Pilot store," according to the DA's statement.
"Therefore, there is an insufficient legal basis to continue a prosecution against them.
"Both Ms. Montmarquet and Mr. Jackson cooperated with the Knoxville Police Department from the time they were pulled over and voluntarily responded to police questioning. Their statements assisted the investigation and were consistent with the other evidence developed."
The statement continued, "It is an ethical obligation and the standard practice of district attorneys to dismiss charges at the earliest stage of the criminal justice process once investigations reveal the evidence will not support a conviction and occurs almost daily in the Knox County courts."
Edwards and Richardson were kicked off the team last Monday. Jackson is still on the team but is barred from all team activities.
Tennessee will not make a decision today on Jackson’s playing status, said Tiffany Carpenter, public relations director for UT athletics, and there has been no timetable set for a decision.
The robbery attempt happened when Cory B. Zickefoose, Benjamin J. Everett and Corey M. Smith told police they'd been confronted by two men in black hoodies with what looked like a pistol. The men demanded "everything you have," according to court records.
The three, who had empty wallets, later identified Edwards and Richardson as the holdup men, police said.
Police stopped a 2010 Toyota Prius driven by Montmarquet soon after the holdup and found a pellet gun, two black hoodies and marijuana inside, according to records.
More details as they develop online and in Tuesday's News Sentinel.