Tennessee two-step

Sports blotter: "All offensive linemen" edition
By MATT TAIBBI  |  November 14, 2007

071116_blotter_main
James Ryan Norris
O-lineman special report: Chattanooga
Tough week for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where two football players were busted within a span of three days — one for a serious offense, one for a violation that was a little more clerical in nature.

The serious offense involved a redshirt freshman named James Ryan Norris, an offensive lineman who checks in at 6-5, 305 pounds — plenty big enough to subdue two young female college students at the same time, which Norris now stands accused of doing. Police answered a call at the notorious (more on that in a moment) Boling Apartments at 12:25 am on November 3 and found two women who accused the player of sexual assault — one said that Norris “forced himself” on her, the other said he “fondled” her. Norris was quickly rung up on charges of rape and sexual assault, then released on a $30,000 bond.

If Boling rings a bell, two years ago, six UTC football players were arrested for rape after an incident at the same apartment complex. In October 2005, a woman claimed that all six men raped her, but in January 2006 the case was thrown out of court for lack of evidence after the woman admitted to having been drunk on the night in question. (Apparently, in Tennessee that’s enough to prove consent to sex with six hulking football players.)

Meanwhile, just days before the Norris arrest, another UTC offensive lineman, Robbie Elliott, was arrested after police undertook a fugitive-warrant sweep in Elliott’s dorm. The cops discovered that he had not filed the proper paperwork after the completion of a community-service sentence he incurred this past year. Elliott had been sentenced in conjunction with a domestic-violence case, the details of which have not been released because the case is somehow still “ongoing.”

Give Norris 90 points — a rape and sexual assault are about as serious crimes as we’ve had this year.

O-lineman special report: Phoenix
Some things just go beyond bad taste, such as smoking crack in a booth at an adult bookstore. I mean, you can blow a total stranger in there, or jerk off onto the carpet, but smoking crack? Hey, a businessman’s gotta have standards.

So spaketh a central Phoenix porn-shop proprietor this past week, after calling in the police to bust former St. Louis/Phoenix Cardinal Pro Bowl offensive lineman Luis Sharpe, whom he said was behaving suspiciously in his store. Sharpe was born in Cuba and was nearly deported there in 2000 after finishing a stretch in Perryville prison for drug charges. At that time, he vowed to clean up his life, which convinced the courts to exercise some leniency and let him stay in the country.

Unfortunately, the gesture didn’t stick. The former NFL great — injuries ended his career in 1994 — has been in numerous scrapes, including an August felony bust involving a bar fight. He’s also been shot and was forced to do time in a substance-abuse program. On top of that was the tragedy that befell Sharpe shortly before his August arrest; his 23-year-old daughter, Leah, was shot dead and dumped in an alley in Phoenix. Sharpe went on TV and made a public appeal to his daughter’s killer, promising to track him down. But the girl’s murder was never solved.

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