NC State

NCSU guard Markell Johnson’s pretrial hearing continued again as investigation goes on

N.C. State’s Markell Johnson, center, did not dress for the Wolfpack’s game against UNCG on Dec. 16. He was suspended on Dec. 14 following his indictment for felony assault.
N.C. State’s Markell Johnson, center, did not dress for the Wolfpack’s game against UNCG on Dec. 16. He was suspended on Dec. 14 following his indictment for felony assault. ehyman@newsobserver.com

N.C. State sophomore guard Markell Johnson’s pretrial hearing on his felony assault charges has been continued until Jan. 16 at 9 a.m.

Johnson, Demarious Green, Michael Melton and Johnnie Pullum were indicted on Dec. 5. The four are charged with assaulting Michael Blackwell, 37, in Cleveland in early October.

Defense attorneys, including Johnson’s attorney John Paris, expressed concern that Johnson would be unable to play basketball or receive his scholarship while the case was pending. Paris indicated additional witness statements would demonstrate that there were errors in the initial police report.

According to the Oct. 8 Cleveland police report, Blackwell said he got into a verbal altercation with Johnson. Blackwell said Johnson struck him in the face “about 10 times” before he fought back. In the police report, Blackwell also says that Green, Melton and Pullum threw punches and grabbed his neck before Blackwell bit one of his attackers.

Blackwell later that night sought medical attention and later told police his eye socket was fractured and he suffered a concussion. Blackwell also received stitches, according to the police report.

In 2015, Johnson told recruiting and high school sports website The Left Bench that Melton and Blackwell were mentors to him: “Living in the townhouses where I grew up, my next door neighbor Mike Blackwell taught me a lot about the game. He didn’t just tell me, he showed me and helped me.”

The Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office is expected this week to send its own investigators to interview Johnson’s mother, Sabrina Johnson, and other witnesses.

Under N.C. State’s student-athlete code of conduct, Johnson is suspended from the basketball team until the felony charge is resolved.

Under Ohio law, felony assault is a second-degree felony punishable by two to eight years in prison if convicted. If charges are reduced to a misdemeanor due to a plea offer, it’s punishable by no more that six months in county jail. If Johnson accepts such a plea bargain, he could be eligible to return to N.C. State’s team. It will, however, be up to N.C. State coaches and administrators as to whether or not he’s allowed to return. An N.C. State basketball spokesman declined to comment.

Johnson, who was N.C. State’s starting point guard for the season’s first 10 games prior to his Dec. 14 suspension, has missed the team’s last six games, including the Wolfpack’s 96-85 win over Duke on Saturday. N.C. State has gone 3-3 in those games, including 1-2 in ACC play.

He’ll miss the Wolfpack’s (11-5, 1-2 ACC) two games this week; the first against No. 25 Clemson at home on Thursday, and the second on Sunday at No. 8 Virginia.

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