Hairston outcome typical for students

With legal charges against P.J. Hairston dismissed, questions about whether the North Carolina shooting guard will be eligible to play next season have risen to the forefront of the discussion.

Durham Court Deputy Clerk Monica Richardson said Monday that the two charges stemming from Hairston’s June 5 arrest — possession of marijuana and driving without a license — had been dismissed.

Still, athletic department spokesman Steve Kirschner said Wednesday that he could not comment on Hairston’s eligibility for the upcoming season.

According to court records, Hairston completed an assessment relating to his drug charge July 19, and after obtaining and completing the assessment, the state chose not to pursue the charge further.

Hairston was also able to present his valid driver’s license.

Director of Student Legal Services Dorothy Bernholz said while every county is different, allowing a student to complete an assessment before appearing in court for first offense drug and alcohol charges is common procedure in Orange County.

“An assessment looks at the individual based on exams and questions and so forth,” Bernholz said, also referring to it as a “conversation” and an “evaluation.”

She said the purpose of the assessment is to see if a student might have a serious problem with drug and alcohol abuse. The court will then review the assessment and any agreements made between the prosecutor and the individual student and decide whether to dismiss charges.

“It all depends on the circumstances,” she said.

But Bernholz said Durham County, where Hairston was arrested and charged, could have a different standard because of its higher number of arrests and serious cases.

“Every district attorney has a different approach for processing these misdemeanors.”

According to court records, two passengers who were arrested along with Hairston, Carlos Sanford and Miykael Faulcon, still face charges of possession of marijuana.

At the time of his arrest, Hairston was driving a rented 2013 GMC Yukon — a car that USA Today first reported was rented by Haydn “Fats” Thomas, a felon with a lengthy criminal record.

Under NCAA rules, Hairston’s use of Thomas’ rental could be an impermissible benefit, depending on the nature of their relationship.

Sports law expert and legal analyst Michael McCann said in an email the NCAA could choose to suspend Hairston for the season, but he said he believes the organization will want to first verify that Hairston and Thomas’ relationship is an improper one.

“A person — even a convicted felon — renting a car for a college student athlete is probably not, in and of itself, enough to warrant a sanction, since there are circumstances when that could arise where it has nothing to do with sports,” McCann said.

If UNC determines that Hairston has committed a violation affecting eligibility, the school must declare him ineligible to the NCAA, according to organization guidelines.

The University must then investigate the situation and submit a reinstatement request to the NCAA.

The NCAA will consider the nature and seriousness of the violation, impermissible benefits received and the student athlete’s level of responsibility.

The UNC basketball program has not spoken since Hairston’s charges were dismissed, but coach Roy Williams said in a statement July 15 that Hairston would face “serious consequences.”

Senior writer Brooke Pryor contributed reporting.

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