How the Jalen Carter charges affect the Seahawks

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Jalen Carter is one of the top prospects in the draft and is perfect for the Seahawks. Let’s look at how his recent charges affect his draft stock. He may fall into Seattle’s lap or may fall completely off their board.

If you haven’t heard, Georgia star Jalen Carter was arrested on two misdemeanor counts Wednesday. Let me emphasize, these are charges, not convictions. Carter was booked and released on bail in less than 20 minutes. Usually, a pair of misdemeanor convictions would boost your stock with some organizations; I’m looking at you, Cowboys. Carter released a statement that he “expects to be fully exonerated” of the charges, so we’re a long way from conviction.

The issue isn’t the charges themselves, reckless driving and racing, that may have the Seahawks concerned. It’s that the second charge includes the phrase “in connection with a crash”.  The crash resulted in the death of two people, University of Georgia recruiter Chandler LeCroy and offensive lineman Devin Willock. So while the charges are misdemeanors – the bail was only $4,000 – there’s considerably more weight to the charges than reckless driving.

The Seahawks will have deep discussions about Jalen Carter

Let me say that this is certainly a terrible tragedy, and that’s far more important than the prospects of Jalen Carter or the Seahawks. But I write about football, so let’s get to it. There is so much to consider about this situation. First, Carter was not charged with vehicular homicide. That is a very important distinction. The gist is that he’s been charged with contributing to the crash, not causing it. That is a massive difference, not only legally, but morally. The fact that Lecroy’s blood alcohol level was measured at  .197 should certainly be considered a major factor in the crash.

Second, as noted above, Jalen Carter disputes the charges. We do have that fun little concept in the U.S., innocent until proven guilty. But let’s take another look at the situation. As reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution – sorry about the paywall – Carter gave the police three very different statements. You can also read the information here, as reported by NBC Sports. Initially, he stated he was one mile away when the crash occurred. He then stated he was following LeCroy’s car and witnessed the accident. Finally, he admitted that he and LeCroy had been racing, and his vehicle was next to hers when she lost control and wrecked.

Now as I see it, that’s a problem. The fact that Jalen Carter has been charged with reckless driving and racing isn’t the issue. The problem is that he left the scene of the accident and returned an hour later. He then told three different versions of the story to Athens-Clarke County police. The fact that there are two surviving victims of the crash could lead to the exoneration of Jalen Carter on the charges or his conviction. It’s certainly possible that both may be less than truthful to support Carter if he’s lying. It’s also quite likely that they’ll reveal the truth – as best they can – considering they were in the vehicle that crashed and witnessed the resultant injuries and deaths.

How will the Seahawks react to all this? Pete Carroll and John Schneider are clearly big believers in the concept of second chances. We can go all the way back to Brandon Browner for examples of how Carroll doesn’t cut players loose at the first sign of trouble. More recently, Josh Gordon certainly got his second chance with the Seahawks, and deservedly so.

But this is very different from the Gordon situation. I don’t want to minimize the legal aspect of the case. As reported by ESPN’s Mark Schlabach, if convicted of the charges Carter would face maximum sentences of 12 months in jail, plus a $1,000 dollar fine. Whether a judge in Clarke County Georgia would pass the maximum sentence on a Bulldog national champion is up for debate.

But the character question still remains for the Seahawks, and it’s one they must answer long before a resolution to this case is found. The arraignment is scheduled for April 18, and the draft, of course, will begin on April 27. It would likely be months before there is even a trial or pre-trial adjudication. It’s worth noting that Carter was ticketed for speeding in September of last year. He was cited for driving 89 mph in a 45 mph zone. Much worse, bodycam footage shows the officer literally telling Carter, “That was reckless.”

So the dilemma for the Seahawks – and of course, the other 31 teams – is this: should they hope that the death of two of his friends has helped Jalen Carter mature? Or is he still the kind of person who didn’t learn his lesson from months ago, continued to act recklessly, and at least initially lied about his actions? I can’t make that call, as I haven’t spoken to Jalen Carter. You can be sure that Pete Carroll and John Schnieder will. Carter is an immense talent, but he’s hardly the only player they’re looking at in the Combine.

Let me reiterate, I’m not trying Carter in the court of public opinion. But it bothers me that he left the scene, then came closer to the truth not just once, but twice. It bothers me that he says he’ll be exonerated of all charges. He admitted that he was driving next to LeCroy’s vehicle, and the investigation shows it was traveling at 104 mph at the time of the crash.

3 defensive free agents the Hawks should target. dark. Next

Most of all, it bothers me that he left the scene of the accident and didn’t return until an hour later. I haven’t seen any report that he called 911. I’m not saying he didn’t, but one would think that at least now that he’s admitted to being at the scene of the accident, he’d clarify that he immediately called for help. I don’t know how long it took emergency vehicles to respond, either. But the fact that Chandler died in the hospital creates very serious implications for his actions or inactions as that may be. I know this much; I wouldn’t risk the highest draft pick the Seahawks have had in 14 years on this guy.