The Lucas County (Ohio) grand jury that last week indicted Northern Illinois linebacker Jamaal Bass with felonious assault ruled he knowingly caused serious physical harm to the Toledo band member he hit before a November football game, according to Ohio state law.
The band member Bass hit, along with another band member Bass knocked over, suffered a concussion. Bass also was charged with a misdemeanor assault, which Ohio state law defines as knowingly or recklessly causing serious physical harm to another person.
“You have two different mental states,” said Marc Falkoff, an associate professor of law at NIU. “The first requires that he knowingly caused harm. That means, even if it wasn’t a purposed harm, by hitting him knowing the guy was going to be harmed he could be guilty.
“The second one is recklessly causing serious physical harm. Recklessly means he acted with an awareness that someone could be harmed, although it wasn’t his intent.”
NIU’s game Nov. 1 against Toledo was nationally televised on ESPN2. Bass can be seen on a recording of the incident jumping shoulder-first into the face of a band member and knocking over another as his team ran onto the field and the band exited.
The felonious assault charge carries a maximum eight-year prison sentence, while the misdemeanor can carry a maximum six-month jail sentence and $1,000 fine.
On Monday, a warrant was issued for Bass’ arrest in Lucas County. In most cases, Falkoff said, Bass would either have to turn himself into authorities, or authorities would arrest him. Then a trial would ensue.
The case has been assigned to Judge James Jensen, according to a report in the Toledo Blade. No arraignment date has been set.
Officials with DeKalb Police and the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office said they have not been asked by Ohio authorities to assist in an arrest. NIU spokesman Paul Palian said NIU Police had not been asked Monday for help, but was not sure if any assistance had been requested Tuesday. Multiple messages left Tuesday to the Lucas County prosecutor's office were not returned.
In a case like Bass’, Falkoff said, a felonious assault charge typically would come sooner than six months after the incident.
“I would say it’s unusual here because you have a discrete incident,” Falkoff said. “One could imagine that one could relatively quickly determine whether it would be appropriate to move forward with a criminal case.
“I suppose people would think that this is somehow harmful to the defendant. But the charitable way to look at it is the prosecution gave some serious reflection about whether they wanted to move ahead with this case. They thought about it, they looked at the evidence, and they made their determination.”