Outside of the Knox County general sessions courtrooms Wednesday, Tennessee defensive end Jacques Smith shook hands with a few Vols fans and was even told by one that he had NFL-caliber talent.
An hour earlier, on the inside, Smith was just another name on the docket, just another body scrunched onto a bench awaiting the consequences for the costly “mistake” the freshman said he made less than two weeks earlier.
Smith pleaded guilty on a simple assault charge, but will have the transgression dropped from his record in a year if he adheres to his judicial diversion, a “special kind of probation” afforded to first-time offenders.
Smith’s charges stemmed from an early-morning, Oct. 31 incident, just hours after the Vols fell at South Carolina, 38-24.
Upset that a female friend of his was dancing with another man, Smith, according to the arrest warrant issued by the Knoxville Police Department, punched Brandon Allen, 21, from behind and proceeded to kick and punch him as he lay on the ground at New Amsterdam, 1836 Cumberland Ave.
Smith must pay court costs and restitution charges for Allen’s injuries, which include a concussion and stitches to a finger on his left hand. Smith will also attend anger management classes and voluntarily submit to alcohol and drug assessments.
If Smith, one of UT’s most promising young players, complies with all of the above, and faces no new charges, the Class A misdemeanor will be dropped from his record.
“This all turns into great disposition for you if you do the stuff you promise,” Fourth Sessions Court Judge Chuck Cerny said to Smith.
After his plea, Smith turned toward Allen and his family, seated in the third row, and used the nearly full courtroom as his platform to apologize.
“I would like to say that I’m fully aware of the situation that happened. It was my mistake,” Smith said. “I know as an adult that’s not how you handle the situation. I hope that Mr. Allen and his family can understand that was a mistake.
“As an adult, it should have never have happened. I’m really sorry and I hope you can accept my apology.”
Allen and his parents then nodded in approval. Smith talked privately with Allen’s mother outside the courtroom and the two hugged before parting ways.
“That truly is Jacques Smith from his heart what he said in there,” said Smith’s attorney, T Scott Jones. “That’s nothing that an attorney has put him up to. That’s something that young man needs and wanted to do.”
Jones called the assault case an “anomaly” because of the cordial rapport between Smith and Allen. Typically, Jones said, the two parties would not be allowed near each other so soon after an incident.
“That speaks volumes about the man Mr. Smith is,” Jones said. “He understands that was not conforming with his normal character and wanted his victim to know it.”
Smith is due back in the same courtroom Feb. 22 to receive an update on the restitution charges.
Andrew Gribble covers Tennessee football and recruiting. He may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble/