University of North Texas police have issued arrest warrants for two former UNT basketball players and a former team manager, according to an email obtained by the Denton Record-Chronicle.
Rickey Brice Jr., a junior who played for the Mean Green last season, was arrested Monday on a marijuana possession charge. That arrest was made in connection with an investigation into organized criminal activity, promotion of prostitution and drug possession, UNT spokeswoman Deborah Leliaert said.
The email from UNT President Neal Smatresk to the campus community said none of the accused students involved in the investigation is currently allowed on campus.
"When something like this occurs, we take it seriously," Smatresk told the Record-Chronicle. "We take action and we do what we need to do to preserve the safety and security of the campus."
Details of exactly what the police are investigating remained sketchy Tuesday night. UNT police Capt. David Owen declined to comment late Tuesday afternoon, and UNT Police Chief Ed Reynolds could not be reached for comment.
So far, Brice is the only one who has been charged with a crime. The other former player and the former team manager had not been arrested or formally charged with crimes by Tuesday evening, according to a review of Denton County Jail records and court records.
A fourth person not affiliated with the university is also the subject of an arrest warrant, but Leliaert said UNT would not say what alleged offense triggered the warrant.
Smatresk's email to the UNT community suggested the case started March 30 when the university received a report about an alleged sexual assault with a reference to prostitution. Reynolds launched an investigation and then briefed Smatresk on April 26, according to UNT sources.
The other two students have active warrants for charges of engaging in organized criminal activity, promotion of prostitution and drug possession, according to the email. Because those students have not yet been arrested, their names have not been made public.
The UNT athletic department has known about the ongoing investigation for the past three or four days, said a UNT source who asked to not be identified.
Records show Brice was booked into Denton County Jail on Monday and charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana weighing less than 2 ounces. He posted $1,000 bail and was released the same day, jail records show.
The charge stems from an offense on April 6, records show.
Leliaert, a vice president and spokeswoman for the university, said UNT police's criminal investigation into the incident is ongoing. Because of that, officials will not comment on what they're investigating and why. The university's police department will continue to lead the investigation, she said.
UNT has hired Bond, Schoeneck & King, a national law firm, to conduct an independent review and "ensure that there are no cultural or climate issues within the basketball program," Smatresk said. The criminal investigation is progressing on a separate track.
"UNT Police Department is continuing to lead the criminal investigation," Leliaert said. "They [the law firm] are not focused on potential criminal actions."
Leliaert said the students were not actively involved with the basketball team on March 30, the date of the alleged sexual assault that triggered the police investigation.
UNT's basketball program has undergone a dramatic change over the past few months. Tony Benford was fired March 5 following his fifth season as coach. He did not return phone calls for comment Tuesday evening.
Former Arkansas State University coach Grant McCasland was hired to replace Benford on March 13.
"There is zero evidence or reason to suspect any current coaches had anything to do with this," the UNT source said.
Staff writer Julian Gill contributed to this report.
The complete notice from the president's office is below:
"On April 28, the UNT Police Department obtained arrest warrants for three university students and one individual unassociated with the university. Warrants for engaging in organized criminal activity—promotion of prostitution and drug possession were obtained for two students while a warrant for drug possession was obtained for the third student. The UNT Police Department is leading the criminal investigation.
"None of the students involved are currently allowed on campus.
"On March 30, the university received a report of an alleged sexual assault with a reference to alleged prostitution, and the UNTPD immediately began an aggressive investigation. President Neal Smatresk, a handful of key university officials and the UNT System Office of General Counsel were aware of the ongoing investigation. On April 26, the president was briefed by the UNT Chief of Police, after which appropriate action was taken.
"Two of the students are former members of the men's basketball program and the other had served as a student manager for the program. Based on the information the university has received from law enforcement thus far, this appears to be an isolated incident involving individuals who are no longer associated with our men's basketball program.
"President Smatresk and Vice President and Director of Athletics Wren Baker have retained the services of Bond Schoeneck & King, a national law firm, to conduct an independent review and ensure that there are no cultural or climate issues within the program. The firm will begin its review today and will work quickly but comprehensively.
"The university will report on the results of the review — and any recommendations — upon its completion. The review will not be focused on any of the criminal aspects of this case, as that is a police matter. Should the outside review or the law enforcement investigation result in new information or concerns, they will be addressed."
University President Neal Smatresk:
"The alleged actions of these students are contrary to the values of our university and our Student Code of Conduct. The university is cooperating fully with investigators and working diligently to obtain all facts pertaining to this issue. We will be as transparent as possible with the university community. The independent review by a respected national firm will help to ensure that this matter is not indicative of a cultural issue within the program. It's the responsibility of this university to promote a respectful and supportive environment for our community, and we will take all appropriate actions to ensure the safety of our community members."
FEATURED PHOTO: North Texas sophomore center Rickey Brice Jr., center, is shown during a game in February against the University of Texas-San Antonio at the UNT Coliseum. Brice was arrested on a marijuana possession charge Monday. That arrest was made in connection with an investigation into organized criminal activity, promotion of prostitution and drug possession, according to UNT officials.