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Eight U-Va. lacrosse players have been charged with alcohol-related offenses during their careers at the school

By Matt Bonesteel, Daniel de Vise and Meg Smith
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, May 6, 2010; D01

Eight of the 41 players on the roster of the University of Virginia men's lacrosse team, including accused murderer George Huguely, have been charged with alcohol-related offenses during their careers at the school, according to court records.

The charges include underage alcohol possession, using a fake ID and driving while intoxicated, according to a review of records available online. Two players were found not guilty, while six were convicted or pleaded guilty. A ninth player was charged with underage possession of alcohol, but it is unclear whether he was attending U-Va. at the time. His case was dismissed.

Huguely's arrest Monday in the death of Yeardley Love, a classmate and fellow lacrosse player, has focused scrutiny on Huguely's earlier arrest for a drunken, violent confrontation with a police officer, and on his team's reputation among students for hard partying.

The fatal altercation between Huguely and Love early Monday in her Charlottesville apartment may not have been their first violent encounter. Two months before Love's death, two current and one former University of North Carolina lacrosse players intervened to separate Huguely from Love at a party on the U-Va. campus in Charlottesville, according to two sources with knowledge of the incident. The UNC players were in Charlottesville visiting with friends.

A reporter asked U-Va. President John T. Casteen III about the incident at a news conference Wednesday. Casteen said he knew nothing about it. Huguely's attorney did not immediately reply to a phone message and e-mail seeking comment.

Casteen also said that school officials were unaware of Huguely's prior arrest and that officials, coaches and trainers had no indication of violence on his part. But Casteen acknowledged that "there are a number of gaps in this system that concern me." He said the school would begin to screen students against public records before each semester.

U-Va. Athletic Director Craig Littlepage, asked about the alcohol-related arrests at the news conference, said, "I'm sure those incidents that have been brought into the pipeline were handled in a manner that was consistent with what our longstanding policies have been."

Huguely told police he shook Love during a violent argument before her death, hitting her head repeatedly against a wall, according to affidavits filed by police in support of a search warrant. The pair, both 22, had dated for at least a year, but Love broke off the relationship in recent weeks, according to people close to them.

Huguely's attorney has said Love's death was a tragic accident.

In November 2008, Huguely pleaded guilty to resisting arrest, public swearing and public intoxication after a drunken scuffle with a female police officer during a visit to Lexington, Va. The officer said Huguely told her, "I'll kill you. I'll kill all of y'all. I'm not going to jail," in a diatribe laced with racial, sexual and other vulgar terms. She used a Taser to subdue him.

Huguely received a 60-day suspended sentence, six months' supervised probation and a fine, according to court records. He was ordered to complete 50 hours of community service and 20 hours of substance abuse education, which he finished in July, the records show.

His lacrosse team has a strict alcohol policy. In 1999, Coach Dom Starsia adopted a rule that allowed players to drink only one night a week, usually Saturdays. A player who broke the rule a single time would be suspended indefinitely. A second offense would result in dismissal from the team.

"Alcohol and lacrosse have gone hand-in-hand since my days at Brown [University] in the 1970s," Starsia told The Washington Post at the time. "Whether it is post-game celebrations or just in general, there was something about the sport and alcohol, and Virginia was no different. I always thought alcohol was an issue here, and it is something we talked about before the season began."

In 2004, Starsia suspended several players for violating the policy.

Asked to weigh the significance of the more recent U-Va. arrests, Paul Haagen, senior associate dean for academic affairs at Duke University law school, said that "if that many people are getting themselves in trouble, then there is a problem. The question is exactly what the problem is. Is it male students or athletes or the lacrosse team, or is it U-Va. students in general?

"Unless I know what the comparison numbers are, I'm not in a very good position to tell what's going on. On their face, those seem to me like very high numbers," said Haagen, himself a former collegiate lacrosse player.

In contrast to U-Va., only one current player on Georgetown University's men's lacrosse team has been charged with an offense of any kind, according to public court records. The University of Maryland has two players who have faced criminal charges since they started at College Park.

Lexington police never notified administrators at U-Va. of their 2008 arrest of Huguely, Chief Al Thomas said Wednesday. He said most colleges require their students to report run-ins with the law, but he was unaware whether Huguely had done so.

When the university learns of an athlete's arrest, each case is treated individually, according to Carol Wood, a university spokeswoman. Some are referred to a student-run Judiciary Committee, which can recommend an array of actions as harsh as expulsion. In alcohol cases that involve dependent students, university officials notify parents.

More details emerged Wednesday about Huguely's erstwhile relationship with Love. A member of the Love family, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Love had portrayed Huguely as "aggressive" when he asked her about the relationship in a March conversation. "But she said nothing more," he said. "I didn't think anything of it."

Police filed court documents Wednesday showing they had recovered a University of Virginia lacrosse T-shirt, stained red, from Huguely's apartment, according to an account on the Web site of the Charlottesville Daily Progress. The search also yielded a letter from Huguely addressed to Love, along with two white Apple laptops, a green spiral notebook, two white socks, a bathroom rug, a shower curtain, an entryway rug and a pair of blue cargo shorts. Investigators attempted to lift DNA samples from a bathtub, the kitchen, a trash can and the front door, according to the account.

Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo said an autopsy had been completed Tuesday, but written findings were weeks away.

At the Love family home in suburban Baltimore, Kathy Solomon, Yeardley's aunt, said she would remember her niece as a hard working young woman, raised with good values.

"She worked during the summer. She babysat," Solomon said. "She earned her own spending money all the way through school."

The Love family will hold a wake Friday at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, with a funeral mass Saturday at Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore, followed by a private burial.

In an evening candlelight vigil at the Charlottesville campus, an a cappella group in black sun dresses sang "Stand By Me" as students lit their candles. Flickers of flame spread through the large crowd.

Casteen addressed the group, his voice thick with emotion. He urged students to speak out if they suffer or witness abuse.

"Come talk to me," he said. "Seek support that belongs to you, because you belong to us."

Staff writers Zach Berman, Mary Pat Flaherty, Jenna Johnson, Mark Viera, Steve Yanda and special correspondent Christian Swezey contributed to this report.

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