By KATHLEEN MCKIERNAN
SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The Dan Hurley Era is barely one week old and already the newly-minted University of Rhode Island men’s basketball head coach has a scandal involving his best player to deal with.
Early Tuesday morning University of Rhode Island Police arrested freshman basketball player Jonathan Holton for two felony charges of video voyeurism after allegedly taking video of separate consensual sexual encounters between himself and two female students. In the original press release, the school said Holton posted the videos; URI released a correction Wednesday morning, saying the videos were posted on Facebook without saying who posted them.
Holton, 20 of Miami, Fla. has been suspended from the URI men’s basketball program as a result of his arrest.
“These are disturbing allegations that strike at the core of our commitment to make this a safe and civil campus community,” said Thomas R. Dougan, URI Vice President for Student Affairs, in a school press release Tuesday. “Respect for the rights and privacy of all of our community members is paramount.”
No comment was issued by Hurley – who was named as the Rams’ head coach after the incident was originally reported March 17 – or the URI athletic department Tuesday night. The department was in charge of hosting the NCAA Women’s Basketball Regional Final at the Ryan Center Tuesday night.
Holton, a 6-foot-9, 220-pound freshman forward was a bright spot on the court for URI in what was an otherwise dismal season. He came on as a standout player midway through the season and was second on the team in scoring, was first in rebounding and led the Rams – who went 7-24, 4-10 in the Atlantic 10 - with eight double-doubles. For his success on the court, he was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team.
After Hurley’s introductory press conference on March 21, Holton spoke about his desire to stay at URI despite rumors saying he could leave the school if assistant coach Preston Murphy – who recruited Holton – didn’t remain with the team.
“This is a great coaching staff,” Holton said, “and I’m trying to get to that next level.”
Holton offered no public statement on the charges – from himself or through the school – and when his family was reached, they declined to comment on them as well
But following the arrest and subsequent news stories that broke state-wide and nationally, Holton took to Twitter and at 4:37 Tweeted “Guess the good come with the good and the bad come with the bad. Thanks for those who believe and (sic) me and still got my back,” which was followed by another Tweet one minute later when he wrote “still chasing my dreams.”
Campus police arrested Holton at his dormitory, Merrow Hall, following complaints from two students that he took video of two separate sexual encounters with them without their consent and then posted the videos on Facebook. Police said the incidents occurred on campus and were consensual.
Holton appeared in Fourth Division District Court on Tuesday morning for arraignment. He was released on $10,000 personal recognizance. He entered no plea.
A no contact order was issued between Holton and the two victims. A felony screening with the Department of Attorney General has been scheduled April 27.
According to police reports, at 6:45 a.m., URI Police and the Rhode Island State Police Computer Crimes Unit went to Holton’s dorm room to serve him a search and arrest warrant. Four videos were turned over to police for evidence. Because of the ongoing investigation, URI Police would not comment further. Holton was arrested at his dorm without incident.
The female students first reported the incidents March 17 to Division of Student Affairs personnel and then March 20 to campus police. The women told police the sexual encounters, which occurred in the fall, were consensual.
Police said the alleged victims went to the police station after friends told them that some videos of them had been posted to Facebook and that they were forwarded to about 30 people.
The two women are receiving support from the URI Women’s Center and other Student Affairs staff.
Dougan said the incidents have also been referred to the student judicial process, which could result in sanctions ranging from a written reprimand to suspension from the University.
If convicted on the criminal charges, Holton could face up to three years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine, police said.
SRIN sports reporter Eric Rueb contributed to this report