Lexy Gross || Assistant News Editor
The five-month trial of former men’s basketball guard Zay Jackson came to an end Monday in Paducah, Ky.
McCracken County Circuit Court Judge Craig Clymer approved an agreement after Jackson pled guilty to two felonies. The charges stem from an incident where Jackson struck Jason Clement and endangered his wife, Alia, both of Paducah, Ky., with his car in the Murray Walmart parking lot.
Jackson was given five years in jail for a Class C felony of second-degree assault and five years in jail for a Class D felony of first-degree wanton endangerment.
Jackson will serve 60 days total for both felonies. Since he served 11 previously for the same crime, he started serving the final 49 days Monday afternoon.
After his 60 days are served in the Calloway County Jail, Jackson will begin a three-year probation program. On this program, probation officers may randomly drug test or check Jackson for alcohol use. If Jackson disobeys the terms of his probation, he will return to jail for the remainder of the three years.
Anger management counseling, payment of the Clements’ medical bills pertaining to the incident and the surrender of driving privileges for 30 days are also components of Jackson’s sentence.
“The key is not to punish someone because of their notoriety,” Clymer said in open court. “But the public has to have confidence that the court is taking a serious crime seriously.”
Clymer was appointed a special judge on the case after Calloway County Judge Dennis Foust recused himself from the trial. At the time, the charges had been lowered from two charges of second-degree assault to two charges of first-degree wanton endangerment.
A plea deal giving Jackson 30 days in jail to be served on weekends was turned down by Clymer, who then offered Jackson a one-year sentence with possible shock probation.
Jackson and defense attorney Gary Haverstock decided to reject the one-year agreement and take back the guilty plea Jackson had entered into. After appearing before a grand jury, one charge of wanton endangerment was raised to assault.
Last week, Haverstock and Commonwealth Attorney Mark Blankenship developed a final plea deal, which reduced the assault charge back to wanton endangerment. This dropped one felony charge for Jackson from a C to a D.
“I didn’t care whether it was a C or a D felony, it’s the same penalty,” Blankenship said.
The Clements, however, were not satisfied with Jackson receiving a lowered felony charge.
“I think he deserves a C felony,” Alia Clement said. “I mean, you’ve seen that video. I have nightmares about it.”
Jackson agreed to the terms of a Class C felony, understanding a violation in his probation could mean a trip to prison.
“I know what goes on in college,” Clymer told Jackson in court. “If you drink a beer or get caught smoking a joint, or doing much of anything, it subjects you to the possibility of paying the rest of the five years as a prison term.”
According to Blankenship, Jackson has already raised $3,000 in restitution to cover the victims’ medical bills related to the incident. Jason Clement is currently visiting an orthopedic institute in Nashville, Tenn., with complaints of the loss of feeling to one of his arms. The Clements’ do not have medical insurance.
Jackson will pay $350 per visit Clement makes to the institution.
When Clymer asked Haverstock if Jackson had a job to pay these expenses, Haverstock sited a rule of the NCAA stating players with scholarships are not allowed to have one.
Blankenship said when Jackson was robbed at gunpoint two weeks ago, he was worried the restitution money had been taken.
“(Jackson) said $300 was taken from him,” Blankenship said. “I believe Zay on that one. He had nothing to gain in that situation.”
At the end of the final trial in the Jackson case, Haverstock spoke on behalf of Jackson’s personality.
“This was certainly something totally out of character for him,” Haverstock said. “He’s going to continue at Murray State and hopefully attain his degree with a GPA above a 3.0.”
Blankenship said he thinks Jackson has learned his lesson and understands the serious nature of his actions. He also said he hopes Jackson will uphold the responsibilities he will have when on probation in the near future.
Before leaving the courtroom to head back to Calloway County, Jackson shook hands with the Clements’ – apologizing for his actions.
“I really hope he gets the help he needs,” Alia Clement said. “I’m still living with it every day of my life.”
Story by Lexy Gross, Assistant News Editor.