Illini linebacker Robertson pleads not guilty to felonies

By Steve Contorno

Freshman football player Erique Robertson pleaded not guilty to three class-four felonies Monday, one day after head coach Ron Zook suspended him indefinitely. The 19-year-old linebacker is charged with reckless discharge of a firearm and two counts of aggravated unlawful use of weapons.

According to a Champaign Police report, Robertson was also charged at the scene with not having the proper identification for a firearm and obstructing justice. Robertson’s charges stem from an incident early Sunday morning when officers responded to shots being fired at the 200 block of West Clark Street near E’llusions Bar.

After arriving on the scene, officers observed a subject shooting a handgun. According to the report, officers needed to use force to obtain a suspect, although it is not clear which suspect the force was used on. Three other offenders were listed on the report, but only Robertson was arrested. Champaign Police spokeswoman Rene Dunn told the Associated Press the linebacker was arrested at 1:45 a.m. No one was reportedly injured.

Prior to his appearance in court Monday, Dean of Students William L. Riley said Robertson remains a student at the University.

The Office of Conflict Resolution will review Robertson’s case before the Urbana-Champaign Senate Subcommittee on Undergraduate Student Conduct will decide if punishment by the University is necessary, Riley added.

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Zook said that Robertson’s status is still being assessed.

“There is a certain conduct that members of our team will adhere to,” Zook said in a statement. “When our players don’t behave in that way, there will be consequences. We will continue to closely evaluate Erique’s situation.”

Riley said he suspected Zook would act quickly in determining what, if any, further actions would be taken against Robertson, but that Zook’s decision would be in accordance with the policy of the team and the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics and not the University. Last March, Zook took less than a week to dismiss Jody Ellis and Derrick McPhearson from the football team after initially suspending them.

The two had been charged with four counts of residential burglary and two counts of theft.

With signing day approaching, Cassie Arner, associate sports information director, said Monday that Zook was out of town recruiting and she didn’t know if he and Riley had spoken about the incident.

She did expect, however, that Zook would take action if necessary.

“Knowing coach, he is very strong on discipline if it is warranted,” Arner said. “With a lot of details circulating they need to make sure they get all the facts before making a decision. But, coach is huge on discipline, and if it warrants it, he will decide if action needs to be taken.”

Riley said Robertson’s case was being reviewed by three separate bodies – the criminal court system, the University and the athletic department – and each could determine a different punishment if it deems it necessary.

The University will also review whether Robertson had the weapon on University property, an offense Riley said could be punishable by any number of actions, including removal from the University.

It was uncertain whether other Illinois football players or students were involved, both Arner and Riley said.

Robertson, from Maple Heights, Ohio, joined the Illini for the Spring 2007 semester along with standout freshman Arrelious Benn, forgoing the final semester of his senior year of high school.

He joined the program as a three-star recruit and was ranked as’s 24th best weakside linebacker in the 2007 class. During the 2007-08 season, Robertson played in seven games and made three tackles.

The Associated Press contributed to this report