JACKSON, Miss. — A federal judge in Mississippi approved a plea agreement Tuesday allowing a 19-year-old former University of Alabama basketball player to avoid prosecution in a kidnapping case if he stays out of trouble for two years.
U.S. District Judge William Barbour in Jackson told Devonta Pollard that the deferred prosecution means he must avoid drugs and alcohol, stay out of trouble, and not move out of the judicial district for southern Mississippi unless he gets approval from a probation officer.
After the hearing, the judge spoke privately with Pollard and lawyers in the case. Pollard's attorney described the conversation as a "man-to-man" discussion about Pollard's future and the judge's desire to see him succeed.
Pollard was on a basketball scholarship at Alabama before being arrested on a conspiracy charge in the kidnapping case. He's now playing at East Mississippi Community College and hopes to get back to a four-year university, his lawyer, Lisa Ross, said in a telephone interview after the hearing.
Prosecutors offered Pollard the deal in exchange for testimony against his mother, Jesse Mae Brown Pollard. She was convicted last month of orchestrating the plot to kidnap a 6-year-old relative in a dispute over a piece of land and a portable storage shed in east Mississippi.
The girl was abducted in April from East Kemper Elementary School and released unharmed the next day.
Devonta Pollard testified that his mother was behind the plot, but said he didn't know anything about it until the girl had already been abducted and authorities were investigating. On the day of the kidnapping, he said his mother called and asked him to pick up his cousin, whose car had broken down, and bring the cousin to meet her. He said he didn't know that the cousin was going to watch the abducted child for Jesse Pollard.
"We're happy to have this behind us and Devonta, we believe, will be successful. With a lot of love and support from family and friends he can still make something of his life," Ross said. "His mother put him in a very compromising situation and we hope that with this second chance people will see who the real Devonta Pollard is."
Five others, most of them related to each other, Pollard and the victim, pleaded guilty Nov. 6 and await sentencing. They include a school secretary charged with telling Jesse Pollard where to find the child that day: in the school library.
Investigators say the child was taken from the school to a hotel in Bessemer, Ala., then moved to a hotel in Laurel, Miss. She was dropped off near Enterprise, Miss., and told her mother was in a nearby mobile home and she should run up to it.
Two rolls of tape and a 20-foot-long dog leash cable were found in the rental car used in the abduction. Prosecutors said Jesse Pollard was prepared to use them on the girl.