Here's hoping Jalen Carter publicly tells 'truth' he promised about alleged involvement in fatal crash
Jalen Carter was supposed to speak to the media Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
Then the Georgia defensive tackle and potential top pick in the draft received word that police back in Athens had issued two arrest warrants for reckless driving and racing.
The charges, both misdemeanors, stem from Jan. 15, where police allege Carter was involved in an early morning street race that ended when a separate car veered off the road and crashed.
Bulldog teammate Devin Willock and 24-year-old Georgia football staffer Chandler LeCroy both died in that accident. Two others sustained injuries.
LeCroy, police allege, had a blood alcohol level of .197, more than twice the legal limit in Georgia. The speedometer of her vehicle was stuck on 83 miles per hour, more than double the speed limit on the city street. Police say she was going 104 just before the accident.
The group had been out that night celebrating Georgia’s national title victory the week prior. They left a downtown strip joint and were headed to a nearby Waffle House when police allege three separate cars, including one driven by Carter, were involved in a street race.
The timing of the announcement, at the start of a draft process in which Carter is a prominent figure, with headlines that included a double fatality, set off a fire of speculation. Carter understandably canceled his scheduled interview and instead promised a full story at some point in the future.
“It is my intention to return to Athens to answer the misdemeanor charges against me and to make certain that the complete and accurate truth is presented,” Carter said in a statement. “There is no question in my mind that when all of the facts are known that I will be fully exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing.”
Here’s hoping he tells it publicly, both for himself, the families of the deceased and for anyone with concerns about the behavior of the Georgia football program that night (and there are plenty).
Carter's legal peril here appears limited. While both counts could result in a $1,000 fine and up to a year in prison, the chance of incarceration is minimal. If this is an isolated situation, then Carter isn’t going to drop far, if at all, in the NFL Draft. He’s way too good for what is essentially some bad judgment and good luck that he wasn't hurt.
While participating in a street race was reckless and showed poor judgment, it wasn’t Carter who caused the other car to crash, nor is he responsible for anyone else’s decision to race.
"The evidence demonstrated that both vehicles switched between lanes, drove in the center turn lane, drove in opposite lanes of travel, overtook other motorists, and drove at high rates of speed, in an apparent attempt to outdistance each other," Athens police said in a statement.
It was a terrible decision. Arrogant and juvenile. Still, it was LeCroy who was clearly drunk driving that night, not Carter. Police said Carter did not appear to be under the influence of anything when they spoke with him at the accident site.
That occurred about an hour and a half after the crash when Carter was asked to return to the site after initially leaving. That’s another questionable decision, but he was under no obligation to remain at an accident site in which his car wasn’t involved.
Carter’s story has changed repeatedly, according to reporting by AJC.com, leaving police suspicious. It's the one he tells now that is the most important. He should be clear and come clean and begin to move on from this tragedy with a better understanding of what is at stake.
Two members of the Georgia football family perished. Two others were injured. Everyone is lucky that some innocent citizen of Athens wasn’t injured or killed just driving along safely.
Those memories should stick with the talented defensive tackle. His future is still in front of him. He owes it to everyone in his past to help provide the answers of what did happen that night, what decision led to this sad event and what Georgia and everyone else can do to stop it from ever occurring again.
It may be painful. It may be embarrassing. In lieu of significant legal trouble though, Carter should consider it part of his redemption.
“When all of the facts are known,” he promised.
Good, once he’s done working it out with prosecutors, let’s hear them publicly. That combine news conference is never going to happen, but a different one in the future should.