[ WARRIOR FOOTBALL ]
Lawyer expects Keli‘ikipi
to be reinstated tomorrow
UH AD Frazier declines comment
on running back's situation
Suspended senior running back West Keli'ikipi is expected to be reinstated to the University of Hawaii football team tomorrow, his attorney said yesterday.
"We're very, very close," Michael Green said. "We expect an announcement Friday."
When asked if it would be positive for his client, Green said, "Yes, we expect he will play."
UH athletic department officials would not confirm that Keli'ikipi would be reinstated, though.
Athletic director Herman Frazier declined comment, and football coach June Jones said he was unaware of any impending announcement.
"We're still at the mercy of some attorneys," Jones said after a town-hall meeting last night. "We're hoping for the best, but we're at the tail end of the process."
Keli'ikipi was suspended from the team in May when Frazier determined that an allegation of second-degree felony theft against Keli'ikipi constituted a major violation of the UH Student-Athlete Handbook. The applicability of the handbook is in question, though, because the incident involving Keli'ikipi occurred before he was enrolled at UH.
"It's an unusual situation. He's one of the great kids we've had," Jones told a gathering of about 100 last night at Pearl Ridge Elementary School. "The problem he got into was prior to when he showed up on campus. There's going to be a decision one way or another soon."
Keli'ikipi pled not guilty at a May 7 circuit-court hearing to a charge of participating in a scam against Kaiser Foundation Health Inc. in which he and six others are accused of stealing a total of $162,000.
Green said Keli'ikipi accepted $9,000 from one of the other defendants as a loan in 2002, and did not know where it came from. Keli'ikipi used some of the money to buy a car, which he turned over to investigators. Keli'ikipi has cooperated with authorities throughout, Green said.
Since the arraignment, Green has worked with the court to try to obtain a deferred plea. Deferred pleas are granted if the judge is confident the defendant will not commit another crime and has a clean prior record. If the defendant stays out of trouble for a certain amount of time, the plea is stricken from the person's record.
Keli'ikipi, in his first season at UH last fall, played in 10 games before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He rushed 37 times for 247 yards and six touchdowns and caught 20 passes for 154 yards and another touchdown, while sharing time with Mike Bass and Michael Brewster in the Warriors' one-back offense.
The 6-foot-1, 266-pound Waianae High School graduate quickly became a fan favorite last season, and is expected to play a big part in UH's offense this fall as a ball carrier and blocker.
Keli'ikipi was unavailable for comment.
Bass, also a senior, might miss the season because of suspension. The university has recommended that he and junior offensive lineman Brandon Eaton be suspended from school for the fall semester because of their alleged involvement in a fight on campus in February. Their status is pending appeal.
Jones said earlier this week he expected the status of Keli'ikipi, Bass and Eaton to be resolved within a few days. Football training camp begins Aug. 9 and the first game is Sept. 4 at Aloha Stadium against Florida Atlantic.