For one of the four WSU football players who found themselves in trouble with the law, their case is over. Today, the Whitman County prosecutor’s office declined to file any charges against senior starting safety Shalom Luani, citing an inability to prove Luani was not “acting in self defense”. The Pullman Police Department had previously recommended a felony charge of second degree assault.
Here’s the detailed statement from the prosecutor’s office, courtesy of the Seattle Times’ Stefanie Loh:
More detail from Whitman Co. Pros. Denis Tracy's findings after reviewing the Luani case pic.twitter.com/5kccqoCdu4— Stefanie Loh (@StefanieLoh) September 26, 2016
Tracy said he believes he has enough evidence to prove Luani punched “Mr. Medina” in the nose but since he can’t prove Luani wasn’t acting in self-defense, he won’t move the case forward for prosecution.
Here is what the video from inside the Domino’s reportedly shows, again, from the Times:
“The reports and video show that there was pushing and pulling back and forth inside the pizza place, with the physical contact between Mr. Medina and Mr. Luani being started by Mr. Medina,” Tracy wrote. “It concluded with Mr. Luani pushing Mr. Medina in the face, while Mr. Medina pulls his head back, and while Mr. Luani is walking away.”
It was the portion that happened outside, what Luani had claimed on his now private Instagram account we weren’t getting the whole story of, that we were left somewhat in the dark about. According to the prosecutor though, Luani was, in fact, assaulted by a group of men and at some point, Luani swung and broke “Mr. Medina’s” nose.
We got at least a small indication of this being the case last week during police chief Gary Jenkins’ press conference, held after the arrest of Robert Barber and TJ Fehoko:
Jenkins: "Some evidence" to corroborate Luani's claim he was jumped but they can't identify anyone.— CougCenter (@CougCenter) September 16, 2016
Taking into account everything we heard during Jenkins’ press conference and now this ... it’s kind of hard to not give more credence to what Mike Leach said a couple of weeks ago. Here’s the money quote, again:
“If the other guilty parties are not accused or charged, there needs to be an extensive investigation as to why,” Leach said. “How in the world can only football parties be guilty in events depicted like this? It is irresponsible to this town, this community and everybody to have some kind of a double standard where we only focus on one demographic, one group of people and then drag their name through the newspaper with a bunch of irresponsible comments.”
Taking the conclusion of Luani’s case into consideration, it will be interesting to see what comes of the case involving Barber and Fehoko. That has received considerably more media attention and although the facts of the case seem less muddled, there’s still a question as to whether any charges will be filed at all against Barber and Fehoko especially when, again, the police chief acknowledges there were other factors:
Jenkins: Coach Leach was "accurate" when he said multiple assaults were going on at the same time.— CougCenter (@CougCenter) September 16, 2016
None of that is helpful to a prosecutor, who needs to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Barber and Fehoko are guilty.
Barber’s expulsion from school is an entirely different matter since the Student Conduct Board’s evidence standard is merely a “preponderance”. As far as we know, Barber has filed an appeal but whether that’s successful is anyone’s guess.
For today at least though, we know Shalom Luani is no longer in any legal trouble and will be on the field this Saturday against Oregon.
UPDATE, 5:30 p.m.: Athletic director Bill Moos released the following statement:
“We are pleased that the prosecuting attorney’s office came to the same conclusion as we did regarding this case. While not always afforded the opportunity, I believe this illustrates the stance we have taken from the beginning which is to handle such matters internally, not speak in great detail, until the legal process has played out. Though we choose to reserve comment on such instances, we continue to cooperate with law enforcement, and assume innocent until proven guilty. We will not engage in public debate, rather, will let the legal process run its course, and as best we can gain an understanding of all the facts, without publicly acknowledging guilt or innocence prematurely. We will continue to educate our student-athletes on representing our fine university is a positive manner and also emphasize they remove themselves from situations that have the potential to impact them and the university negatively.”
UPDATE, 9/27, 11:50 a.m.: Pullman police released the surveillance footage from inside the Domino’s. We’ve embedded that below.