Wednesday, April 03, 2002

UC's Little accused of torturing roommate




By Marie McCain mmccain@enquirer.com
and Neil Schmidt nschmidt@enquirer.com

The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Little
        University of Cincinnati basketball player Donald Little was banned from off-season basketball-related activities Tuesday after his arraignment on charges he helped torture and assault his roommate.

        The 6-foot-11 Bearcat center pleaded not guilty Tuesday. He posted $50,000 bond Tuesday night and was released.

        Mr. Little was the starting center on a 31-4 UC team that set a single-season school record for victories, leading to a top seed in the NCAA tournament that wrapped up Monday.

LITTLE IN COURT
  Previous run-ins with the law:
  • September, 2001: Pleaded guilty to reduced charge of persistent disorderly conduct for assaulting a female tavern manager.
  • July, 2001: Pleaded guilty to reduced charges of reckless driving, an open-container violation and having no driver's license in his possessiont. A marijuana possession charge and a speeding allegation were dropped.
  • More: Citations in Ohio dating to February 1999 for driving without a license, disorderly conduct, open-container violations and weaving while driving a vehicle.
LITTLE ON THE COURT
  • 2001-02 stats: Averaged team-best 6.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. Also averaged 7.1 points, shooting 50.6 percent from the field.
  • Notables: Ranks second in UC history with 153 career blocked shots, trailing only Kenyon Martin (292).
        But this has been a troubled year for the Augusta, Ga., junior, who was dismissed from the team last year after two alcohol-related incidents. He later was reinstated.

        Authorities said that on Monday afternoon Mr. Little taped roommate Justin Hodge, 20, to a plastic lawn chair in their Wheeler Street apartment in Fairview Heights, just south of the university campus. They said he hit Mr. Hodge in the face with a weight bar, helped burn him with cigarettes and a heated coat hanger and stabbed him in the leg.

        Then, Mr. Hodge told police, Mr. Little ordered friends in the apartment to kill his roommate and dump his body in Columbus.

        Mr. Little was arrested Monday about 7:30 p.m. and charged with felonious assault and kidnapping. If convicted, he could be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in prison.

        Mr. Hodge of Oberlin, Ohio, told police that the 30-minute incident began about 2 p.m. Monday when his roommate called him on his cell phone and asked him to return to their apartment.

        Once there, Mr. Hodge said, Mr. Little hit him over the head with a whiskey bottle, and punched and kicked him repeatedly. Then, he said, he was taped to the chair.

        Officials said Mr. Little was upset because he'd lost $2,500 and couldn't find the money.

        According to court records, Mr. Hodge said Mr. Little told several others who were in the apartment to “stab (Mr. Hodge) again. ... Make him bleed.”

        Mr. Hodge went to University Hospital, where he was treated and released.

        Reached briefly Tuesday, Mr. Hodge would say only that he was physically fine now.

        Cincinnati police are searching for several others involved in the incident, said police spokesman Lt. Kurt Byrd.

        Police also arrested Mr. Little's best friend, basketball player Chris Seabrooks, who now lives in Highland Heights.

        Mr. Seabrooks, 23, a 6-foot-9 center for the Northern Kentucky University Norse, was charged with misdemeanor menacing, accused of making threatening statements about Mr. Hodge.

        Police said he was not involved in the assault on Mr. Hodge.

        Mr. Seabrooks is a transfer from the University of Pittsburgh, where he was kicked off the basketball team in December 2000 after two arrests on assault charges in a 12-month period.

        He grew up with Mr. Little in Augusta and both attended the exclusive Winchendon prep school in Winchendon, Mass.

        Mr. Seabrooks is on a basketball scholarship at NKU, where he was redshirted this year but has one season of eligibility remaining. NKU Athletic Director Jane Meier said the school will allow the legal process to run its course before making a determination about Mr. Seabrooks' eligibility.

        UC officials also said Tuesday that they'll await the outcome of the legal proceedings before deciding Mr. Little's fate with the team.

        Mr. Little was dismissed from the Bearcats for four months last summer after two May run-ins with the law.

        But he has citations in Ohio dating to February 1999 for driving without a license, disorderly conduct, open-container violations and weaving while driving a vehicle.

        Mr. Little pleaded guilty in July to reduced charges of reckless driving, an open-container violation and having no driver's license in his possession after a May 19 incident. A marijuana possession charge and a speeding allegation were dropped.

        In September, Mr. Little pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of persistent disorderly conduct for assaulting the female manager of the Inn The Woods Tavern in Clifton Heights on May 3.

        As part of his punishment, Mr. Little was ordered to serve probation and report directly to Hamilton County Municipal Judge Timothy Black. He also was ordered to participate in at least six anger management sessions.

        On Dec. 5, the probation was terminated after Judge Black found that Mr. Little had met his probation obligations. The judge couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.

        Mr. Little's return to the Bearcats was conditional upon completion of those counseling sessions. He also was placed on behavior probation by the athletic department.

        Richard Feil III, Mr. Little's attorney, declined to comment Tuesday, saying only that he promised his client he would not make any statements following Tuesday's arraignment.

        UC Athletic Director Bob Goin said Tuesday he was not at liberty to discuss details of Mr. Little's counseling.

        As for the behavior probation, Mr. Goin said, “That's something we'll deal with as part of the evaluation of Donald's basketball future at Cincinnati once the legal process has run its course.”

        Men's basketball coach Bob Huggins referred all comment to Mr. Goin.

        Jane Prendergast contributed.

Previous stories
Grove, Little may be charged in bar fight May 5, 2001
UC boots Little May 20, 2001
Little charged in bar incident May 22, 2001
Little arraigned on assault charge May 23, 2001
Little's UC days may not be over July 25, 2001
Little pleads guilty in bar incident Sept. 6, 2001
UC reinstates Little Sept. 22, 2001



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