Florida freshmen Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells were arrested early Monday morning on identical felony charges of firing a missile into a dwelling and criminal mischief resulting in property damage of $1,000 or more for allegedly firing BB guns into and doing damage to the Keys Residential Complex on the University of Florida campus late last week.
Cleveland — Florida's top-rated receiver recruit in the 2016 class — and Wells — whose ties to Cleveland were reportedly part of why the Jacksonville native turned Texas resident ultimately committed to Florida — allegedly broke three windows at Keys on July 15 while shooting at someone inside the building, according to a University Police Department police report, and were subsequently identifed by video.
They then surrendered to police and admitted to firing BB guns into the Keys building early Monday morning, though the police report omits any details of how officers came into contact with both players, saying only that they were identified by name by their student ID cards. The duo were booked into the Alachua County jail in quick succession early Monday morning — Cleveland at 3:31 a.m., Wells at 3:38 a.m.
The charge of firing a missile into a dwelling that both face is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The charge of criminal mischief is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. If the police report's scant details are correct, that would mean that Cleveland and Wells face 20 years for firing a BB gun and doing damage on Florida's campus.
It strikes me as highly unlikely both will end up doing the maximum for this crime, especially without any apparent bodily injury — far more likely for both, I think, is pleading down and making restitution for the property damage. But while Cleveland and Wells will almost certainly avail themselves of the services of frequent Gators player legal eagle Huntley Johnson, known for many years of aggressively defending football-playing clients, their being charged with two felonies makes this one of the more serious criminal cases against a Florida football player in recent memory.
It is also striking, though, that former Gator Deiondre Porter was charged with four felony counts in 2015 for allegedly firing a gun into a wall near his pregnant girlfriend, two of them the exact same charges that Cleveland and Wells now face. I wrote then that "any of the four felony charges, all related to doing something dumb with a gun, should be more than enough to get Porter booted" — but those charges involved a weapon far more lethal than a BB gun, and intimate partner violence.
Florida coach Jim McElwain vowed "consequences" for "behavior" that Florida "do(es) not expect" in his brief statement on the matter on Monday.
Here's a statement from Coach McElwain on Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells. pic.twitter.com/bzkwWexdLt— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) July 18, 2016
He expanded on that, sort of, while appearing on ESPN on Tuesday.
McElwain on ESPN on Cleveland, Wells arrests: 'These guys will be dealt with, and it’ll be taken care of.' #Gators— Matt Baker (@MBakerTBTimes) July 19, 2016
What will happen to Cleveland and Wells remains to be seen, though I doubt this incident will end their Florida careers. I imagine that a significant suspension for both may happen in parallel to whatever criminal penalties they face.
And I would be fine with it.