Maryland football Coach Bobby Ross said he plans no disciplinary action against defensive back Keeta Covington if he pleads guilty today to misdemeanor assault and battery charges filed against him by a female student.
"I think perhaps Keeta has already paid quite a price," Ross said Saturday night of the charges, resulting from an incident that allegedly occurred in a dormitory on the College Park campus last Aug. 20. "I think it's been somewhat unjust."
The judge in the case, Vincent Femia, Friday said Covington will be given the chance to have the case wiped off his record if he pleads guilty, pays a fine and agrees to spend one night in jail. However, Prince George's County State's Attorney Arthur Marshall said his office wants Covington to spend 10 days in jail and be placed on supervised probation.
The plaintiff, Yvockeea Kim Gray, told police Covington struck her twice and knocked her down. Covington and his attorney have declined comment, but Ross said Covington told him he is innocent.
"He wants [the case] to go to jury, but that may not be the best for him," Ross said, citing the cost and time factors of a trial. "I don't know if he can afford to do that."
Ross said he did not know if Covington will accept the plea bargain offered. But he expressed his displeasure that prosecutors had cited previous charges against Covington.
Covington recently settled out of court on an unrelated civil damages suit in which another student claimed Covington knocked out three of his teeth in a bar fracas Feb. 5, 1985. That incident resulted in two criminal charges against Covington, neither of which was prosecuted.
"This is another case where Keeta was found not guilty," Ross said. "I just cannot believe the amount of rumor and innuendo all directly related to the life of a young man."
Ross said the bar incident in which Covington was involved was "a matter of a fight being provoked." Even so, he said, "There's no question Keeta should not have gone back after that young boy and knocked his teeth out."
Of the current charges, Ross said, "These kinds of things happen on this campus all the time. On this campus, there happen to be visitation rights . . . I can't say I wouldn't like to see visitation rights tightened up on this campus."
Ross said that in Covington's version of the incident, he had returned to his room at night, after two workouts and a meeting, to find the plaintiff and another woman there. Ross wouldn't say how Covington explained what happened next, but said, "I have asked our players to be honest with me and I don't believe Keeta hit her."