03/02/2011 3:48 PM ET
Seton Hall's Theodore faces gun charge
Ex-teammate, mothers, involved in alleged confrontations
By Adam Zagoria / SNY.tv
According to Keon Lawrence's mother, Jordan Theodore held a handgun on Seton Hall's campus. (AP)

MAPLEWOOD, N.J. -- A New Jersey judge ruled Tuesday there was probable cause that Seton Hall guard Jordan Theodore was in possession of a handgun on school grounds following the Villanova-Seton Hall game on Feb. 15.

The incident followed an alleged attack on Theodore's mother by a family member of former Seton Hall guard Keon Lawrence in the stands of the Prudential Center during the game.

"We have received the paperwork from the municipal court," said Kathy Carter, spokesperson for the Essex County prosecutor's office. "The charge is unlawful possession of a weapon on school property. It is a third-degree offense. If found guilty of the charge, the maximum exposure would be five years incarceration in state prison."

New Jersey criminal defense attorney Ron A. Venturi, who is not directly involved in the case, said, "A first offender convicted of a third-degree crime has the presumption of non-incarceration."

Theodore, a junior from Englewood, N.J., who is Seton Hall's starting point guard, will be notified of a date of arraignment in Superior Court in Newark.

Patrick Hobbs, dean of the Seton Hall Law School, did not return multiple phone calls or text messages seeking comment.

Seton Hall basketball spokesman Matt Sweeney said the school had no comment. The school did not make Theodore available for comment.

South Orange/Maplewood judge Jonathan Rosenbluth did not find probable cause in three of the four complaints filed against Theodore by Darlene Epps, Lawrence's mother -- aggravated assault, aggravated assault with a vehicle and possession of a firearm without a permit.

After going back and forth with Epps for about half an hour in the courtroom Tuesday, Rosenbluth said he had "significant questions as to whether or not the proofs are sufficient as to meet the standard beyond a reasonable doubt."

Yet he still found probable cause in one of the four charges.

Theodore is charged with violating New Jersey statute § 2C:39-5e(1), which prohibits the "knowing possession of any firearm in or upon any part of the buildings or grounds of any school, college, university or other educational institution without the written authorization of the governing officer of the institution. This prohibition applies irrespective of whether the possessor has a valid permit to carry the firearm or a valid firearms purchaser identification card."

Lawrence, a Newark native, and Jamel Jackson of Brooklyn were dismissed from the team by head coach Kevin Willard on Feb. 12, "due to a violation of team rules and an ongoing pattern of conduct unbecoming of a representative of Seton Hall athletics."

Pernell Hosier, Jackson's former coach at Technical Career Institute in New York, said both players violated an 11 p.m. team curfew earlier that week in order to attend a party.

Despite being removed from the team, Lawrence was in the stands at Prudential Center for the game against Villanova.

According to interviews and police documents, Epps' partner, Tiffany Accor, then approached Theodore's mother, Carol Theodore, to confront her about comments Jordan Theodore made in the wake of Seton Hall's 69-64 victory at Rutgers on Feb. 12.

Speaking to NewJerseyNewsroom.com about Willard's decision to kick Lawrence and Jackson off the team, Theodore said, "He really didn't want to do it. But as a coach, you can only take so much. So it's like when guys are repeatedly doing the wrong thing, it's like, 'OK I have to step in and do my job now.' That's what he did. Nobody on the team thinks he made the wrong move. Guys understand."

Accor, who was at the courthouse Tuesday with Epps, apparently took exception to Theodore's quote.

According to the incident report Carol Theodore filed with Newark police, "Miss Theodore states that she was in Section 4, Row 1, Seat 8 when she was approached by another female, who asked her if she had seen the article in the newspaper about Keon Lawrence getting kicked off the team. This female then began assaulting Miss Theodore from behind, striking her with a closed fist all about the head, neck and upper back area. Miss Theodore states that she believes that this woman attacked her because she thinks that Miss Theodore's son Jordan is responsible for Keon Lawrence getting kicked off the team."

According to the incident report, Carol Theodore "was transported to UMDNJ via private ambulance from The Prudential Center." The injuries were "not life-threatening," according to the report.

Carol Theodore declined comment for this story.

A source who sat next to Lawrence at the game said he instructed Lawrence not to move during the fight, and that Keon did not approach the fight. Epps said her son left the game at halftime and returned to his dorm at Xavier Hall.

Both Accor and Theodore were barred from returning to the Prudential Center, the source said.

After the game, Epps alleges, Theodore and two "unknown assailants" appeared outside Lawrence's dorm room.

She told Rosenbluth that Lawrence called her upset and said, "Jordan and two men in ski masks are banging on my door."

At that point, Epps told the judge, "I drove to Xavier Hall. I seen with my own eyes Jordan Theodore and two men standing with him."

At one point in her explanation to Rosenbluth, Epps indicated she saw the men with one handgun in the Xavier Hall parking lot. At another juncture, she said she saw three guns. Asked if there was enough light in the parking lot to see the men and the guns, she said there was.

"I seen a gun in the perpetrator's hand," she said at one point, apparently referring to one of the two men with Theodore.

Later, she said: "All three of them had guns, your honor."

"I find your testimony to be highly suspect today," Rosenbluth answered. "I gotta tell you ... It makes me wonder if Jordan really had a gun."

Later, the judge asked Epps," What did his gun look like?"

"I seen the nose of the gun," she said.

Rosenbluth asked Epps if she told the South Orange police officers that Theodore had a gun, and she said she did. Her initial complaints were signed only by her, however, not by the South Orange police.

Epps maintained that she asked Theodore in the parking lot, "Why are you coming here to hurt my son?"

"I dont know, I don't know," she said Theodore responded. "Then he jumped in the car," which she said in her initial complaint was a white Lexus LS 300. "They pulled out real fast and they hit me in the hip."

Epps told Rosenbluth that she did not suffer any serious injuries from being hit by the car.

On Feb. 16, a day after the alleged incident, Epps sent a letter to Seton Hall president A. Gabriel Esteban alleging that Theodore and "two unknown assailants" "attempted assault" on her son and demanding he be removed from the team.

Esteban's reply letter, dated Feb. 22 and obtained by SNY.tv, reads: "Please know that I have been in contact with the vice president for student affairs, Dr. Laura Wankel, about the incident, and I have asked her to address your letter appropriately on my behalf."

Seton Hall is 11-17, 5-11 in the Big East entering Thursday's home game with St. John's.

Adam Zagoria is a regular contributor to SNY.tv. Read his blog at ZagsBlog.com and follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AdamZagoria.
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