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Gator Report

Antonya English

Recruit UF once interested in testifies at murder trial

21

February

So you think Sandwichgate was bad?  Or Tony Joiner's attempted hijacking of his girlfriend's car from the impound lot? Or Brandon James buying pot? It probably could be worse.

Take a look at this Associated Press story about the murder trial involving Alabama receiver Julio Jones, the nation's No. 1 receiver prospect who signed with Alabama. He was once on the Gators' wish list.

AP - Two weeks after he announced his decision to play football at Alabama on national television, star wide receiver Julio Jones found himself in a new position - that of a key prosecution witness in a capital murder trial.

Wearing a gray hoodie emblazoned with an Oklahoma Sooners' logo, Jones testified Tuesday that he witnessed the gunshot murder of a longtime acquaintance who was identified as a drug dealer. The slaying occurred in Baldwin County not far from Foley High School, where Jones became one of the nation's top football recruits.

Jones, 19, said he and his best friend, 18-year-old Lugene Gibbs, watched from across a street as Labarron McDonald, 27, fatally shot Gibbs' uncle, Marlin Lashane Phipps, 33. Jones and Gibbs both said they heard three quick shots from a handgun. McDonald then yanked on Phipps' dreadlocks, pointed the barrel closer to his head and fired once more, they said.

At the end of Jones' testimony, prosecutor Michael Pylant asked the player whether he identified McDonald as the gunman because of pressure from his friend's family or from police. "No, sir," Jones said. "Because I seen him." On cross-examination, defense lawyer Pascal Bruijn asked Jones whether Gibbs was his best friend. "Is that why he's standing in the door, keeping the cameras from taking your picture?" Bruijn asked Jones.

Pylant objected, and Jones did not have to answer.

During opening statements, Bruijn said McDonald was in Milton, Fla., when the shooting happened on May 12. Bruijn called Phipps a "violent, gang-banging drug dealer" who "made enemies and beat up on people."

Gibbs, also a Foley High athletic standout, and Jones both denied smoking or drinking the day of the killing, but Gibbs said his uncle was a drug dealer.

Jones was a Parade and USA Today All-American, and ESPN carried the announcement of his college decision. Named Alabama's Mr. Football by sports writers, he had 194 career catches for 3,287 yards and 42 touchdowns. He also had three rushing touchdowns and scored twice on kick and fumble returns.

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:24pm]

    

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