Friday, June 15, 2007
PALMDALE, Calif. — A promising University of Montana cornerback was being held on $1 million bail Friday, charged with the shooting death of a man during a domestic dispute earlier this month.
Court officials said Jimmy Wilson, 20, of San Diego appeared at Antelope Valley Courthouse for an arraignment hearing but didn’t enter a plea. He is scheduled to be arraigned June 21.
“Attitude is probably the best word to describe Jimmy Wilson,” Montana coach Bobby Hauck said on the school’s team Web site. “He’s confident. He’s tough, and he’s an engaging young man to be around.”
Wilson is charged in the June 2 death of Kevin Smoot, 29, who was shot in the upper torso as he stood in his driveway, Sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Moore said. The gunman fled the scene.
Investigators later identified Wilson as a suspect, and Wilson surrendered to authorities with his attorney on Tuesday in Lancaster, Calif., which is about an hour northeast of Los Angeles, Moore said.
Officials believe Wilson was involved in an altercation between Smoot and Smoot’s girlfriend, who is apparently related to the football player.“It is in the California criminal courts, and we will continue to determine the facts over the course of the next few days,” Jim Foley, the executive vice president of the University of Montana, told FOXNews.com. He refused to comment further.The charges have shocked his high school football coach.“He was just your typical success story of what you would hope would happen for a kid in high school,” said Mike Hastings, the head football coach and athletic director at Point Loma High School in San Diego.Hastings coached Wilson for four years, watching the player grow from a skinny eighth grader to becoming a first team All-Western League selection as a senior in both football and basketball.Wilson, whose given name is James Leon Wilson, is a San Diego native who came to the University of Montana right out of high school. He will be a senior this fall.Wilson is majoring in business administration at the University of Montana.
Smoot’s mother, Leslie, said her son had two young children with his 27-year-old girlfriend. She did not know the relationship between Wilson and her son’s girlfriend.
She said she learned the news of the arrest Wednesday, the same day she buried her son.
“My heart went out to my son, and for a young man who has just messed up his life,” Leslie Smoot said. “It didn’t have to happen that way.”
Wilson’s arrest was the latest in a string of bad news for Montana collegiate football.
On May 18, Montana State football coach Mike Kramer was fired after another of his former players was arrested. Over the past year, five former MSU players and one current MSU player have been arrested on criminal charges, including a murder charge.
“Ultimately the justice system will do its due diligence, and we’ll see how it plays out,” Hastings said. “I’m just really surprised that this has happened.
“I feel bad for the victim in this case and I feel bad for Jimmy because — both of them — now their lives have been changed forever,” he continued. “One’s gone and one is unfortunately going to be facing things that we never thought he would face.”