Wyatt Benson, a former starting fullback for the Owls, was put in an Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition program at a hearing for assault charges in Philadelphia Municipal Court on Wednesday, Nov. 14.
Benson’s case is the latest court decision handed down in four separate cases involving university football players. All but one, starting defensive tackle Kamal Johnson, have been dismissed from the team.
Benson, 21, was arrested after an incident at a party at the University of Pennsylvania in April. The state initially charged Benson with aggravated assault, but eventually dismissed that charge and ordered him to community and other penalties on a charge of simple assault.
According to the original complaint, Benson was attending a party on the 3000 block of Spruce Street around midnight, April 27, when he allegedly attacked the complainant, a Penn student, punching him in the right eye.
The victim was taken to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital where he was treated for a lacerated cornea, a fractured orbital and a cut nose that required five stitches. The complainant told Penn police responding to the incident that he would not require assistance and left for the hospital, only to be picked up by Penn police and taken to the hospital a short while later.
The complainant later told police he was the former boyfriend of Benson’s girlfriend at the party. The girlfriend, who did not witness the incident, testified the same information to police.
One witness interviewed by police said he did not see Benson hit the complainant, but was standing nearby and asked him why he did, to which Benson allegedly responded “because I felt like it.”
As part of his sentence, Benson must serve 25 hours of community service and attend anger management counseling. He was also issued a stay-away order.
In a brief statement, athletic communications said Benson’s status with the team is unchanged following the outcome of the case. He is still listed as a student for the university.
Benson was nominated for the 2013 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team earlier in the year but did not win a spot. The special award recognizes student-athletes who gave commitment to their community through volunteer and other means of service.
Praise Martin-Oguike, a former linebacker, was charged in May 2012 for the rape of a woman inside a 1940 residence hall dorm room. Martin-Oguike was quickly dismissed from the team and subsequently expelled from the university, only to have his criminal charges thrown out in court on the first day of his trial in October.
Martin-Oguike’s defense attorney James Funt filed a motion claiming there was sufficient evidence of his client’s innocence in the form of text messages the complaintant sent to her friends, which Funt said exposed her intent to lie about the rape after Martin-Oguike rejected her offers for a relationship.
A few weeks after Martin-Oguike’s case was thrown out, another Temple football player had his day in court.
Johnson, the defensive tackle, pled guilty on two counts of disorderly conduct and one count of harassment in early October.
The 21-year-old defensive tackle was involved in a dispute with his former girlfriend in September 2012. Judge Robert F. Gordon sentenced Johnson to nine months of probation and the state dropped Johnson’s felony charges of aggravated assault and false imprisonment, among other charges.
According to police, Johnson was accused of forcing himself inside his girlfriend’s apartment during a heated argument, locking her up in the bedroom and not allowing her to leave.
Another football player, Olaniyi Adewole, was charged with aggravated assault in July and is no longer with the team. His trial is set to begin on Dec. 16.
Of the four players, Johnson is the only one who remains with the team. He has 11 career starts with the Owls, including six this season. He started two of the first three games in 2012 before being suspended following his arrest.
Edward Barrenechea and John Moritz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.