Input from Rick Smith and his family was “the deciding factor” in the decision not to charge teammate Jack Fields with a violent crime for injuring Smith in a February locker-room fight, Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Roger Bourne said.
Eight days after the fight, Smith told Brek Orton, the Boise Police Department’s responding officer, that he wanted to press charges against Fields, according to Orton’s report. He apparently changed his mind in the four months since then. His reason is unclear. Efforts to contact Smith, his family members and people who know him were unsuccessful.
Bourne said Wednesday that he didn’t speak directly to Smith. He said a Boise detective told him the junior wide receiver and his family no longer wanted Fields to be prosecuted. Bourne said the combination of their wishes and his own concerns about being able to prove Fields’ guilt figured heavily in his decision not to file charges.
“Can we prove it, and what does the family think, and what outcome are we looking for? Do we need to protect the public? Does there need to be rehabilitation? Does there need to be punishment? All those things go into a decision in any case,” Bourne said. “And so, what (Smith) thought about it was important to us.”
Details of the fight are still hazy.
The city of Boise originally denied Statesman requests for police officers’ reports, photos, witness statements and other details of the incident. In late May, after Bourne said he would not charge Fields, the Statesman again requested the information.
This time, the city released heavily redacted officer reports. Ten pages were withheld. Almost all names were blacked out, as were potential charges, numbers of relevant legal code sections, the extent of Smith’s injuries and other details.
“Production of this information would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” the city’s letter accompanying its response to the Statesman request reads.
Boise State University refused to identify the people involved in the fight. The Statesman confirmed independently that Fields was the player accused of injuring Smith.
Orton wrote in his report that he talked to Smith’s mother by phone on Feb. 17. She told him Smith was at home with her in Long Beach, Calif., his hometown. After practice the morning of Feb. 9, she told him, Smith and Fields were slap-boxing in a locker room on the BSU campus. Slap-boxing is a playful form of boxing in which people hit each other with open fists — usually with little force — to avoid injury.
It appears Smith slapped Fields “with a hard blow to the face” during the contest.
Smith’s mother told Orton that Smith said he was sorry. Fields advanced on Smith in an “aggressive manner, like he wanted to fight,” according to the report.
“(Smith) then put his hands up and stated ‘chill out bro,’ and at that point (Fields) struck him on his jaw with a closed fist,” Orton’s report reads. “As a result of the strike, (Smith) immediately dropped to the ground and struck the back of his head on the carpeted, concrete locker room floor. (Smith) was knocked unconscious and another player immediately went and advised the athletic trainers.”
BSU athletic trainers took Smith to the hospital. The extent of his injuries is unclear.
The Long Beach Press-Telegram reported Feb. 19 that Smith’s family created a GoFundMe account to help cover his medical expenses. The online page claimed Smith suffered a fractured skull, brain hemorrhage and swollen brain.
“He will need help with months of recovery from this (traumatic) brain injury,” according to the California newspaper’s report.
After speaking with Smith’s mother Feb. 17, Orton spoke to Smith, apparently in the same phone conversation. He confirmed his mother’s account of the fight. So did several witnesses Boise Police Detective Charles LeBar interviewed March 19.
Smith told Orton he believed Fields was intentionally trying to hurt him. He said he wanted to pursue criminal charges against Fields.
The police department, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment on Smith’s reason for changing his mind.
The Long Beach Press-Telegram reported that Smith’s mother said her son would need speech therapy and his doctors told him not to lift weights or participate in sports for eight months.
Three months later, BSU head football coach Bryan Harsin said in a radio interview that Smith is still on the team and was expected to participate in summer workouts.
“Rick has always been, and is still part of our team. That hasn’t changed,” Harsin said. “He’ll be out there this summer ready to roll.”
“We never announced Rick Smith left the team, and at no point was he ever removed from the roster,” BSU athletic department spokesman Max Corbet said in an email.
Smith, BSU’s Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year last season, is listed on the team’s 2015 roster. He could contribute on special teams and add depth to the wide receiver corps.
Fields is on the roster as well. He figures to see action as part of a running back rotation that’s trying to replace Jay Ajayi, who was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the fifth round of the NFL draft in early May.
It’s unclear if Smith and Fields have spoken since the fight. Corbet did not respond to a Statesman email question on that topic.