A judge placed his forefinger next to his thumb and told troubled LSU running back Jeremy Hill: "You are this far away from ruining your life."
In Hill’s latest legal troubles, he admitted Friday in state district court to punching a man in the head outside a bar in late April. State District Judge Michael Erwin, however, allowed him to remain out of jail, on probation, after Hill pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge.
Still, Hill’s legal problems are not over and his college football future remains in doubt.
Erwin reminded Hill of former LSU and Miami Dolphins running back Cecil Collins, whose once-promising career was wiped out by arrests and jail time. He told Hill that Collins "had a chance to be a super star, and you may have that chance also, but you are rapidly going down the wrong road."
Hill, who was already on probation at the time of his most recent arrest, received a six-month suspended sentence Friday and two years of probation. Afterward, District Attorney Hillar Moore said he would file a motion to revoke Hill’s earlier probation, which he received following his January 2012 guilty plea to a misdemeanor stemming from his sexual relationship with a then-14-year-old girl at his high school.
Moore said it will be up to state District Judge Bonnie Jackson, who handled Hill’s earlier case, to decide whether the running back should serve his first suspended six-month sentence, or remain on probation under conditions the judge sees fit and possibly return to the Tigers.
A hearing would likely be set for August, Moore said.
Coach Les Miles, who suspended Hill after the bar fight, said through LSU spokesman Michael Bonnette that the Tigers’ leading rusher last year remains suspended indefinitely and that Miles would have additional comments once the legal process is completed.
Hill’s attorney, Marci Blaize, said the goal of Friday’s hearing was to allow Hill to remain enrolled at LSU, "and we achieved that." She also sounded hopeful that Jackson would see Hill has accepted responsibility for his actions and agree to keep him on probation.
"I’ve represented people who are on felony probation who have committed some violation of their probation and have not had to go to jail," Blaize said. "This could have possibly been resolved a little easier and a little timelier if we weren’t dealing with somebody who wasn’t in the national spotlight. … Ordinarily, it’s not this difficult to resolve a misdemeanor case without the lingering threat of jail time."
Hill was arrested after a witness provided authorities with a mobile phone video showing Hill punching a man in the side of the head before a co-defendant, Robert Bayardo, threw another punch that knocked the man out. Moore entered the video into the public record, saying he did so because he thought it was important for the judge to weigh the question of whether Hill was in a fight or simply blindsided a victim who was not a threat.
"That video, to me, is tell-tale," Moore said. "It’s what you do when people are not looking, and in this case, these two individuals didn’t think anyone was looking, but a camera was, and I think that’s something that’s important for everyone to consider. … When you take a look at the video and see how it occurred, it is serious in a lot of regards."
Blaize, however, asserted that "this was a bar fight. The 15 or 20 seconds of video where you can see Jeremy on it is certainly not indicative of the whole evening."
At the victim’s request, Erwin ordered Hill and Bayardo not to comment publicly about the case. When asked by Erwin if he understood his plea, Hill said he did, and added, "I apologize."
Prosecutors said the victim, an LSU student, did not ask for jail time. He requested only that Hill and Bayardo share his $750 in medical expenses, not have any contact with him or his family and not comment publicly about the incident on social media or in any forum.
"He had some compassion, obviously," Moore said of the victim. "He didn’t want to stand in the way of (Hill’s) future."
The judge accepted those terms, handing Hill his latest suspended sentence and two years of probation, which now overlaps with his previous suspended sentence and initial two years of probation that expires in January. Bayardo, who said he did not know Hill, is not an LSU student and had no prior criminal record, received one year of probation.
In May, Jackson placed more restrictive conditions on Hills’ initial probation, including a 9 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew and a ban from bars. Erwin said those conditions will remain but that he will give Hill the flexibility to stay out later than 9 p.m. when his football schedule demands it, should he be reinstated.
The judge also ordered Hill to undergo anger management counseling and perform 50 hours of community service.
Hill rushed for 755 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012, his freshman season. Hill got increased playing time after season-opening starter Alfred Blue went out with a season-ending knee injury in LSU’s third game.