Coach battles charge

By Jami Peterson

At first, NIU Wrestling Coach Philip Rembert was outraged at his Aug. 22 charge of unlawful use of a weapon.

Now, it is just something that constantly lies at the back of his mind. And despite efforts to dismantle it, the charge still remains.

Rembert, 30, 820 Kimberly Ave., Apt. 111, was charged following an Aug. 22 fight involving about eight males in a parking lot at 810 Kimberly Ave. DeKalb Police who arrived on the scene to break up the scuffle eventually found Rembert’s loaded .22 caliber rifle lying under a vehicle in the parking lot.

“I’ve got to get through this,” Rembert said. “I’ve got a job to do. We’ve got to win some matches.”

Rembert’s next court date has been set for Dec. 13, and if found guilty he could be fined a maximum of $1,000 and receive up to one year in jail.

Rembert said he finds the charge especially disturbing because he claims he never retrieved the gun from his apartment, and the person who did came forward and admitted his guilt.

He also claims witnesses on the scene of the incident, even those that were fighting him, attested to the fact that he never left the parking lot.

In addition, Rembert’s attorney Scott Erwin said the officer’s report of the incident completely contradicts witnesses’ accounts. “When you throw the report in with all the other information, it just doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

The whole thing, Rembert says, beginning with the way he was treated on the scene has left him very disgruntled, doubting the quality of the DeKalb Police. “I don’t know what angle to look at, whether it’s because I’m black or because (police thought) I was a student,” he said. “Whatever angle, I should never have been treated that way. The officers on the scene that night didn’t do a foolproof job.”

DeKalb Police Sgt. Jame Kayes, however, said his office handled the incident correctly and found enough substantial evidence to press charges.

“When this first came to light, our consensus was that if (Rembert) was upset with the way the case was handled, we would be very willing to look at it in more detail,” Kayes said. “We encouraged all people involved to cooperate.”

Kayes went on to say that witnesses didn’t cooperate initially because they were told not to by Rembert.

Rembert said these witnesses cooperated eventually because he was under the impression the charges against him would be dropped if all witnesses came forward.

But, this was not the case.

“We didn’t make any kind of a deal with him,” Kayes said. “We can’t make a deal if we don’t know what the people (witnesses) are going to say. We decided to let the judge decide (Rembert’s guilt or innocence).”

Erwin claims the confession of the person who allegedly did bring the gun on the scene, Rembert’s nephew, should have swayed the police and the state’s attorney’s office in the other direction. “We appreciate his (the nephew’s) honesty, but the state’s attorney doesn’t,” he said.

How the gun actually ended up on the scene is now up to the courts to decide. In the meantime, Rembert says he has the support of his team and the athletic department.

And both he and his attorney are optimistic. “I think we’re going to prevail here,” Erwin said.