Athlete faces robbery charge

By Greg Rivara

Men’s basketball guard Robert Smith and two other NIU students will appear in court in the next three weeks for their alleged involvement in stealing a bag of cannabis.

The 20-year-old Smith, 322 W. Neptune Hall, is charged with robbery after allegedly breaking into the residence hall rooms of fellow students David Bergendorf and Michael Ruen and fleeing with a bag of less than 2.5 grams of cannabis on Oct. 17. Bergendorf and Ruen reside at 183 Douglas Hall.

Smith is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing Jan. 24.

Bergendorf, 18, was arrested and charged with the possession of cannabis immediately following the incident. He is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 2 to dismiss an earlier confession.

NIU student Donnell C. Thompson, 22, 1325 W. Lincoln Highway, Apt. 504B, also is charged with robbery. Thompson entered a not guilty plea and is scheduled for a jury trial Jan. 29.

Anthony Rogers, 23, 707 E. Crane Drive, and Alex G. Yates, 19, 398 Douglas Hall, also were charged with robbery. Rogers is scheduled to enter a plea today and Yates is scheduled for a jury trial Monday.

Smith, an elementary education major recruited by the DePaul Blue Demons when current Huskies Coach Jim Molinari was an assistant, transferred from Oral Roberts University where he averaged 3.8 points per game, 14 steals and 31 assists in 24 games as a freshman. Smith, a sophomore, was on academic probation last semester and was ineligible to play.

Judicial Office Director Larry Bolles said at the time of the incident, “Any person who gets caught selling, possessing or using drugs are subject to expulsion from the university.”

Smith was removed from his residence hall room and officially suspended from the team after the incident until an official outcome is publicized. However, the athletic department reinstated Smith after NIU allowed Smith to return to the residence hall in early December.

Associate Athletic Director Keith Hackett said he, Athletic Director Gerald O’Dell and Molinari reinstated Smith because his state and university judicial processes are not expected to end until late January or early February. Smith also has become academically eligible to play.

“It really is a matter of students’ rights,” Hackett said. It was unfair to keep Smith off the team because of the time necessary to officially resolve the incident.

“In this country, a person is still innocent until proven guilty,” Hackett said.

Further decisions regarding Smith’s eligibility will be made after weighing the outcome of his case with NIU and the state, Hackett said.

The Judicial Office refused to disclose the status of Smith’s case with the university.