Robert Barber and one other man were charged in the fight that occurred last July, and brought greater scrutiny on WSU's conduct board procedures. WSU football player T.J. Fehoko was not charged, but is now off the team
Former Washington State defensive lineman Robert Barber has been charged with second-degree felony assault for allegedly striking another man twice during a fight at an off-campus house party in Pullman last July.
Whitman County Prosecutor Dan LeBeau filed the charge last Thursday after an investigation that spanned eight months.
LeBeau said he received the case file from Pullman Police in October but that it took him a while to get through the material.
“There was more information in this file than 90 percent of cases I’ve worked,” LeBeau said in a phone interview Monday. “It was both complex and voluminous. There were 60 to 70 interviews, and with that many witnesses and that much chaos going on, it took a while to get through everything,”
Most Read Sports Stories
- Quentin Moore, the top 2021 JUCO tight end, verbally commits to UW Huskies
- Russell Wilson may want Seahawks to sign Antonio Brown, but a lot would have to happen first
- Analysis: With the roster just about complete, have the Seahawks made themselves better?
- Could Seahawks sign Antonio Brown? It's unlikely and maybe unadvised but not impossible
- Will coronavirus concerns wipe out high-school football this fall? WIAA says it's too soon to tell
Barber’s first appearance in court has been set for March 17 at 10 a.m. at the Whitman County Courthouse in Colfax.
In the fight that broke out at the party Barber and numerous other WSU football players were at on July 23, Barber, who graduated from WSU in December, allegedly hit another WSU student, Jackson Raney, twice, causing a concussion.
Barber and another WSU football player who was involved in the fight at last summer’s party, T.J. Fehoko, were arrested on Sept. 16 and Pullman Police recommended charges of second degree assault. Fehoko was accused of breaking the jaw of WSU senior Alex Rodriguez.
However, after reviewing the case, LeBeau declined to charge Fehoko, saying that “while it was a tragedy what happened with Mr. Rodriguez, and he was injured, it’s my job to assess what the evidence shows, and I couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Fehoko is culpable.”
Fehoko is no longer on the WSU football team, an athletic department spokesperson confirmed Monday morning.
Based on the supplemental narrative report from the Pullman Police Department that was obtained by The Seattle Times, eyewitness video from the night of the incident showed three separate fights.
According to the police supplemental report, video showed Robert Barber punching Raney and knocking him to the ground, and then punching him again while he was on the ground. Three other men were involved in a second fight, and in the third fight, Rodriguez was allegedly punched by Fehoko.
Police interviewed more than a dozen WSU football players who had attended the party, and according to the supplemental report, many of the players interviewed said they saw Raney antagonize Barber before Barber hit him. Two other witnesses who were not on the football team also corroborated this claim, according to the police supplemental report.
The report says WSU receiver Tavares Martin told police that Raney “had been messing with football players throughout the night of the party” but that Rodriguez “didn’t have anything to do with what Raney was doing and Rodriguez just wanted to shut the party down.”
Martin told police, according to the report, that he “felt bad Rodriguez’s jaw was broken because of Raney’s actions.”
The police supplemental report also showed that according to a witness, WSU linebacker Nnamdi Oguayo was punched by a man identified as Aaron Ferrell.
Ferrell was charged with fourth degree misdemeanor assault, LeBeau said, and he and Barber are the only two who have been charged in the case.
Barber’s case generated intense scrutiny through the fall when he came up before WSU’s student conduct board and was initially expelled even though Pullman Police were still in the midst of its investigation into the fight. His sanction was later changed to a long-term suspension.
Barber’s advocates, a group that included several Asian-Pacific Islander groups, former Cougars quarterback Jack Thompson and Sen. Michael Baumgartner, appealed to WSU President Kirk Schulz and declared that WSU’s student conduct process was flawed and did not allow students adequate due process rights.
Barber also appealed the conduct board’s sanction in court and Whitman County judge David Frazier ruled against the conduct board, instituting a stay on Barber’s suspension which allowed the Samoan defensive lineman to return to the football team and play in the last two games of the season.
Schulz commissioned the law firm Lyons O’Dowd to examine allegations of racial bias in the conduct board’s handling of Barber’s case, and also commissioned a task force to reform WSU’s student conduct process. WSU’s evaluation of its conduct board procedures is ongoing.