Former Dunbar High standout Sean Tyson faces possible expulsion from Clemson University -- and imprisonment in South Carolina -- for assault and weapon possession charges filed against him earlier this week by a female student.
A university official said yesterday that Tyson, 23, could risk losing a chance to graduate this spring if he is found to be in violation of the school's student code of conduct.
Tyson was charged Monday with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, as well as possession of a firearm (a .32-caliber pistol) on school property. As a result of the charges, Tyson was thrown off the Tigers' basketball team.
"The administration views these as very serious charges," Nick Lomax, the university's vice president for student affairs, said yesterday from Clemson, S.C. "It's under review right now by the student development office to see if it falls within student regulations."
Lomax said that a decision regarding Tyson's academic standing will made in "10 days to two weeks."
According to campus police, Tyson got into an argument Monday night with Angela Celeste McAbee, a Clemson student and the player's former girlfriend, in the courtyard of the housing complex where Tyson lives. He allegedly grabbed McAbee, threw her against a wall and kicked her several times after she fell.
South Carolina makes a distinction between assault and battery, and assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, because Tyson is much bigger than McAbee and could have caused her substantial harm. Tyson is 6 feet 7, 215 pounds, and the police report listed McAbee as 5 feet, 100 pounds.
Under South Carolina law, the assault charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, while possession of a firearm on school property carries a maximum sentence of a $1,000 fine or one year in jail. Tyson was released on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond and will be arraigned March 18 in Pickens County (S.C.) Court.
Another possibility is that Tyson might be eligible to enter a pre-trial intervention program.
Tyson, who last week called his upcoming graduation "my personal highlight," was on line to receive his bachelor's degree in travel and tourism. But if he gets suspended or expelled from school, Tyson would be in jeopardy of not finishing the nine credits he needs to graduate.
Tyson was unavailable for comment.
Clemson coach Cliff Ellis released a prepared statement Tuesday, saying that "we have clear team policies and a student-athlete discipline policy that all players are aware of from Day 1, and Sean has violated those policies. I regret that this has happened."
When reached at his office yesterday, Ellis declined to comment further.
John McKenzie, deputy director for campus security at Clemson, said that Tyson might be eligible to enter a pre-trial intervention program for the incident "since he doesn't have an extensive record."
"It's so sad," said McKenzie. "Here's one example of a guy who's made it academically, who has a great GPA and a bright future, and he pulls a stunt like this. It's really sad."