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Receiver Washington will play for Nebraska Saturday, despite murder charges

(c) 1995 Copyright The News and Observer Publishing Co.
(c) 1995 Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. (Sep 22, 1995 - 15:24 EDT) -- Nebraska receiver Riley Washington, who is charged with attempted second-degree murder, will play in Saturday's game against Pacific, coach Tom Osborne said.

Osborne said he believes Washington is innocent of charges that he shot and wounded a man outside a Lincoln convenience store on Aug. 2. Washington had been practicing with the team, but until this week was not allowed to play.

"I realize that the prosecution feels that they have a strong case, however, I have not been privy to all of their information, and all I can do is act on the facts I have been presented," Osborne said in a news release Thursday.

Washington, a junior from Chula Vista, Calif., has pleaded innocent and is awaiting trial.

He said he has mixed feelings about Osborne's decision to let him play. "I'm happy to play, but I don't know how people will react to the decision," he told Omaha television station KETV.

"People who know me know that I couldn't have done that. I'm not that kind of person," he said of the charge.

Osborne said he does not want to interfere with the criminal justice system, but that he felt he had to make a decision before Washington's trial starts early next year.

Osborne said he made the decision after conducting his own investigation.

"This has not been a snap decision, we have tried to weigh all of the facts and have done considerable investigation prior to arriving at this conclusion," Osborne said.

If additional evidence is brought to his attention that indicates Washington is guilty, he will no longer be allowed to play, Osborne said. And if he is convicted, Washington will be dismissed from the team for the remainder of his career, Osborne said.

Nebraska athletic director Bill Byrne said he supported Osborne's decision and his conclusion of innocence.

"I believe the young man has been falsely accused and that the courts will eventually justify our confidence in Riley," Byrne said.

Jermaine Cole, 22, was shot once in the side after a fight with another Nebraska football player outside a convenience store, according to police reports.

After the shooting, university and local officials said there had been a long-running conflict between some Lincoln residents and Nebraska football players. Lincoln police chief Tom Casady said the case was classified as gang-related under a broad definition used by police.

Cole himself said gang signs were flashed before the fight.

Osborne's decision comes amid a string of problems for Nebraska's players, several of whom face criminal charges or other legal problems. Star running back Lawrence Phillips has pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault and trespassing; cornerback Tyrone Williams faces felony weapons charges after allegedly shooting at a car in Lincoln last year and tailback James Sims faces a November trial on charges of disturbing the peace and obstruction of justice.

Phillips has been suspended from the team, while Williams and Sims continue to play for the second-ranked Cornhuskers.