Copies of paper with article on football players' drug arrests stolen


Players' felony charges dismissed after weekly issue had gone to press





WEST VIRGINIA -- When staff at Shepherd University's The Picket heard two of the school's football players had been arrested on drug charges, they knew it was going to be a big story. But their article would never reach most of their readers.

On Wednesday afternoon, the paper's staff and adviser noticed that nearly all of the 2,500 copies of The Picket featuring the front-page article were gone from the racks.

Three hours earlier, Demetrius B. Weeden, one of the players who was arrested, had confronted Editor in Chief Jillian Kesner about the article, Kesner said.

Weeden was angry because both players had their felony charges dropped by the local district attorney on Monday, Kesner said. The Picket had gone to press before the charges were dropped.

"It was definitely scary," Kesner said. "I started crying and my legs were shaking."

Kesner said two police officers escorted Weeden out of the newsroom; campus police chief Grover Boyer confirmed that police were called to remove Weeden.

Weeden could not be reached for comment.

The Herald-Mail, a local newspaper, reported Tuesday that the felony charges against the football players were dropped because, after further investigation, authorities concluded Weeden and Ayowole G. Ijelu, the other player arrested, did not intend to sell the marijuana found in their car during the Sept. 16 arrest. Both students signed no-contest pleas to misdemeanor counts of marijuana possession and are on probation, the Herald-Mail reported.

Kesnersaid she explained to Weeden that The Picket was a weekly paper and that it could not print a special issue just to update the story.

After the theft Jim Lewin, The Picket's adviser, said he set out to look for the stolen issues.

"I went around and I asked the custodian in our building here and she said that she saw huge bunches of them that had been thrown into the dumpster," Lewin said. "And then she came back and said that there was another stack in a garbage can at the end of the hall."

Kesner said the theft cost the paper about $450 worth of advertising.

Lewin said he would consider pressing charges if campus police find a suspect in the theft.

Boyer said police are investigating the theft but do not yet have any suspects.

Lewin said he also talked to the university's director of athletic affairs and plans to speak with the assistant dean in charge of judicial boards at the college about the incident.

For next week's issue, Lewin said he suggested to Kesner that she run a story about the student's felony charges being dismissed above the fold, and a story about the thefts below, along with an editorial.

"I don't think The Picket should make itself the center of the story," Lewin said. "But I do think that it should follow up and make a point to say that we're trying to report seriously and accurately. If something happens after we go to press, we can't print it until the next issue, and it's a weekly."

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