By Jimmy Hyams
The attorney for Tennessee safety Jalen McCollough says he acted in self defense when he punched an intruder who mistakenly entered his apartment Oct. 9.
McCollough was charged with felony aggravated assault.
Attorney Chloe Akers filed a Memorandum of Law in General Sessions Court on Wednesday disputing the accounts of the incident in a Knoxville police report. The filing also says Knoxville police failed to interview two witnesses and that the incident did not occur near a stairwell.
The Memorandum says the intruder, Zion Spencer, entered the apartment unannounced after knocking on the door and was asked multiple times to leave but declined. Spencer, who admitted to drinking that day, said he left one apartment to get something from his car, got lost, and knocked on McCollough’s apartment before entering.
The police report says Spencer apologized multiple times, walked away and that McCollough punched him near a stairwell and that Spencer fell down the stairs.
The Memorandum says Spencer was reluctant to leave after being asked and did so only after being approached by McCollough. Spencer finally stepped out of the doorway and McCollough shut the door, one witness, McCollough’s girlfriend, said in the Memorandum.
McCollough asked Spencer to leave the premises but Spencer refused and when Spencer “became more aggressive and belligerent’’ and threatened to go back inside the apartment, McCollough punched him,
McCollough and another witness, his roommate and teammate, Warren Burrell, both stated that Spencer was standing two feet from the front door and “never turned his back and left the apartment at any time, and he was nowhere near the top of the stairs at the time of the interaction.’’
The filing cites a Tennessee legal provision that allows the use of force against someone “who (has) unlawfully and forcibly … entered a residence.’’ It says Spencer entered and “acted unlawfully. At that point, the law presumes Mr. McCollough is justified in using force against Mr. Spencer.’’
Attorney Mike Whelan, who represents Spencer, told The Sports Animal on Thursday he was unaware of the filing.
“I’m kind of surprised she (Akers) didn’t send me a copy of the motions,’’ he said.
Whelan described Spencer as a “sweet young man who went the wrong way in an apartment and got serious injuries … The punch was unjustified.’’
Whelan said Spencer had a tooth knocked out, teeth chipped and others dislodged.
“It will be a long recovery, and expensive,’’ Whelan said.
When told witnesses – McCollough, Burrell and McCollough’s girlfriend – disputed the police report accounts, Whelan said: “They are not exactly uninterested parties.
“I am certain they are claiming a different story. That doesn’t make it true.’’
When told the filing said Spencer wasn’t near the stairwell, Whelan said, “That’s the only place they found blood.’’
Whelan said McCollough’s roommate, Burrell, actually helped Spencer up off the stairs.
Akers will also file a motion Nov. 1 to expedite the preliminary hearing which is “to determine whether probably cause exists to believe that a crime has been committed and that the accused omitted the crime.’’
McCollough made bail Oct. 10. By law, a preliminary hearing should be set with 30 days. It was set for Nov. 18. Akers is asking for a preliminary hearing before Nov. 10.
The filing says Akers will present to the court at the prelim hearing an “argument in favor of dismissal of this charge.’’
Akers declined to comment for this story.
While Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said McCollough has not been suspended, the starting senior safety has not played in Tennessee’s last two games. It is uncertain if he will play Saturday against Kentucky.
Akers released a statement Oct. 21 saying McCollough had “resolved this matter’’ with the University of Tennessee’s Office of Student Conduct & Community Standards following a “thorough investigation.’’