Trial for Star Academy football players April 4


Photo by Sherri Kolade
Star International Academy Football players Ali Bajjey (left), Mohammed Ahmed, Fanar Al-Alsady and Hadee Attia stand before 20th District Court Judge Mark Plawecki during oral arguments March 28. The students were charged with assault and battery during an October 2011 football game against Westland Lutheran High School.

By SHERRI KOLADE
Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — Four high school football players charged with misdemeanor assault and battery will wait until April 4 for their legal fate to be decided.

Star International Academy football players Hadee Attia, Mohamed Ahmed, Ali Bajjey and Fanar Al-Asady, were accused of inciting an alleged assault after a football game against Westland’s Lutheran High School in October 2011. They allegedly gave 15-year-old Lutheran High School quarterback P.J. Guse a concussion during an altercation at the end of a game in October 2011.

Their new hearing will be in 20th District Court before Judge Mark Plawecki.

The players were suspended from school for two days and charged in December 2011 with misdemeanor assault and battery, which carries a 90-day jail term and a fine of $500. They were arraigned Jan. 13 before Plawecki.

During oral arguments presented March 28 at 20th District Court, Farmington Hills-based attorney Nabih Ayad spoke before Plawecki and a full house on behalf of the four football players, asking for the case to be dismissed.

“The defendants cannot be charged where the so-called battery occurred in the activity of a full-contact sport,” Ayad said. “There is not a single criminal case in Michigan let alone this country discussing assault and battery during a sporting event.”

Ayad also gave other examples of teams who were not charged for their actions during games.

Ayad filed a motion Jan. 24 asking Plawecki to dismiss the case. The motion claims that what happened on the field was not assault and battery, but “simply young men playing football as it has always been played.”

“We cannot allow this (case) to become a precedent,” Ayad said in a previous report.

Ayad also said if there is a case, it is because the physical conduct was outside of the range of normal during the sporting event. Ayad spoke about rules in the National Federation of State High School that address conduct and provide appropriate penalties for such behaviors and the courts should not have to play the role as the “super referee” when fights break out or similar acts take place.

“The NFHS recognizes (that kind of) conduct occurs during football games,” Ayad said. “And happens with such regularity they set specific penalties for such offenses.”

Prosecutor Kal Najar, who objected to the motion to dismiss, argued against Ayad’s arguments, saying the Lutheran High School football players did not sign up to be hit, kicked or get assaulted in a play that had nothing to do with the final outcome of the game.

“That is what probable cause comes down to,” Najar said, “where a jury can conclude the conduct exhibited by the defendants goes above and beyond any ordinary conduct of sport and (becomes) assault.”

Najar added that Ayad never stated any authority that would merit dismissal of the football player’s charges. The sport examples he gave were all civil cases, while the Star Academy case is criminal.

“(Ayad) states there is no case for criminal charges of assaults in sporting events,” Najar said before Plawecki. “I suggest that there are cases where hockey players were charged for unecessary brutal assault.”

Najar gave examples outside of Michigan where players were charged with assault. When Plawecki asked Najar if there were any cases in Michigan, Najar said no, but that doesn’t mean this case should be let go, he said.

“Because there have been no cases doesn’t mean this can’t be the first case,” Najar said. “That is how laws are created, there has to be a first time. The conduct in this case was outrageous… I believe a jury would find it to be outrageous.”

Najar said the totality of the circumstances was “egregious” and a jury needs to decide the fate of the four Star football players.

Najar asked Plawecki to view the footage of the game’s altercation. Ayad asked Plawecki to then view other Youtube footage of different games where players were injured, an expectation of playing full-contact sports. Ayad added that the players have no right to be charged, but were because they were Arab Americans.

“Would (prosecutors) have brought these charges had their names been John, Bill or Jason?” Ayad said in a previous Times- Herald report. “Because of their Arab ethnicity, these charges were brought out with a racial (undercurrent) behind it.”

Dawud Walid, Council on American-Islamic Relations Executive Director-Michigan Chapter, attended the oral arguments and said the prosecutor’s assertion that high school football players should be held to a higher standard than professional football players is completely ridiculous and this case should be dismissed immediately.

“There is no precedence in Michigan courts for minors to get charged as adults… during a football game and we are hoping it will be dismissed,” he said. Walid added that the prosecutor was completely out of line by exagerating and embellishing facts about the players.

Lutheran High School officials declined to comment for this story.

(Sherri Kolade can be reached at skolade@bewickpublications.com.)