Nearly nine months after an assault that left him in a coma for 13 days, former Naples High baseball standout Taylor Hashman finally saw the accused assailant jailed.
The Oxford Police Department issued an arrest warrant last week for University of Mississippi cheerleader Johnny Beasley, after Hashman filed a complaint for simple assault charges in Oxford.
Hashman, who suffered a broken jaw, a fractured skull and brain swelling from the attack, had hoped for more serious charges.
The lesser charge comes two months after a Lafayette County grand jury did not indict Beasley on aggravated assault, a felony charge with up to a year in jail and up to 20 years in prison.
“I wasn’t upset, but I was confused at first,” Hashman said. “Then (the police investigator) broke it down and put it into perspective. He told me he figured this would happen.”
A Mississippi statute on aggravated assault states a person is guilty if he or she “attempts to cause or purposely or knowingly causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon or other means likely to produce death or serious bodily harm,” a technicality which may have been an issue for the grand jury, Lafayette Assistant District Attorney Honey Ussery said.
For the simple assault charge, Beasley now faces a $500 fine and up to six months in the Lafayette County jail, if found guilty.
Unlike Florida’s legal process -- which allows prosecutors to present probable cause to a judge to issue an arrest warrant -- Mississippi procedure calls on a county grand jury when the prosecution seeks a felony charge. The grand jury then decides whether or not there is probable cause to indict a person.
“The grand jury is really good at looking at the law and looking at the facts of the case,” Ussery said. “They probably felt it didn’t rise to the level of the (aggravated assault) statute.”
It probably wasn’t an easy decision, she said, noting that the jury took a long time with the case.
“We live in a college town, so we have intellectual grand juries,” she said. “They take this very seriously.”
While misdemeanor charges could have originally been filed, if Beasley had pled guilty or was found guilty, then more serious charges could not have been brought against him, said Oxford Police Chief Mike Martin said.
The process has been drawn out, with the alleged assailant continuing his sophomore year, which included cheering on the sidelines of Rebel football games and attending classes.
While student athletes must sign an athletic code of conduct, Ole Miss Cheer Coach Amanda Hoppert said because the alleged incident took place outside the academic school year and occurred off campus, Beasley was allowed to continue cheering for the Rebels during the 2010-2011 year.
“It’s a non-issue,” Hoppert said. “You’re innocent until proven guilty. That’s (my) stance.”
The arraignment will determine whether Beasley and Hashman will reunite in the courtroom. If Beasley pleads not guilty, a trial date will be set.
The July 31 assault took place during an altercation at a party at The Exchange, a student apartment complex in Oxford, reported the student newspaper, the Daily Mississippian. The assault left Hashman in a medically-induced coma, his jaw broken and his skull scarred from where doctors removed a portion of his skull to relieve brain swelling after he was punched, fell and landed hard on the concrete below.
After being released from the hospital on Aug. 28, he returned to Naples to continue his physical therapy. Hashman is currently working out at the Ole Miss facilities and is trying to get in shape for a tryout with an independent minor league in May.
“It’s unbelievable,” Hashman said. “Not only the fact that I’m walking, but I’m going to tryout (for professional baseball) is unbelievable. It’s only been eighth months.”
Beasley turned himself in to Oxford Police on Friday and is out on $500 bond, Martin said. He now awaits an April 20 arraignment before Oxford Municipal Court Judge Lawrence Little.
Staff writer Adam Fisher contributed to this story