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Incognito Effect: Why Jayru Campbell needs a second chance

Tracey M. Martin, Esq.

Tracey M. Martin, Esq.

By Tracey M. Martin, Esq.
Special to the Michigan Citizen

Jayru Campbell, the top-notch teen football recruit, now in trouble for assault, was being groomed for a cutthroat competitive environment in collegiate sports. So, is it any wonder he allegedly body-slammed a Cass Technical High School security guard after a hoodie confrontation?

A presumption of innocence always exists, but most have seen the video that went viral. The schoolhouse skirmish seemed — quite frankly — lacking in respect on both sides, however, the security guard was injured. But, should young Mr. Campbell bear the full brunt of the law and be branded for life for a youthful indiscretion?

I say no, and here is why.

I call what happened the “Incognito Effect” after Richie Incognito, the Miami Dolphins lineman, who was suspended amid allegations he big-league bullied his teammate, Jonathan Martin.

In his pre-NFL days, Incognito was a chunky, but shy Little Leaguer who was teased and tormented by teammates until he turned “Hulk” and started fighting back. Whatever trouble Incognito encountered — and there were numerous scrapes with the law, with coaches and with teammates from New York to Oregon — there was always a football team that wanted him. In a game where intimidation rules, coaches valued Incognito’s aggression and were willing to overlook his other issues.

The same thing will probably happen to Jayru Campbell, a young football dynamo prized for his own brand of aggression. Campbell is from a single-parent home and is used to dominating opponents on the gridiron and beyond.

Society creates the Jayru Campbells of the world, then casually casts them out when they stretch the boundaries of “civilized conduct” during games and in everyday life.  I predict Campbell will get through this brush with the law and continue on with his football career if he plays his cards right.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy charged Campbell, who had verbally committed to Michigan State University as a quarterback for the fall of 2015, with aggravated assault, a misdemeanor, and felonious assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder. It’s a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 10 years or a fine of not more than $5,000 or both.

A petition to have the charges against Campbell dropped is being circulated on and social media by J’nai Porter, who says Campbell “is remorseful of his actions and has the support of his parents, coaches and community. We believe he should be shown leniency, and be tried as a juvenile and have structured programs to help him stay on track in the future…”

That’s nice, but it’s not going to happen. What can happen is Campbell’s case should be considered for a special Michigan law called the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA), which was enacted to give a second chance for immature and undisciplined youth whose conduct lands them in criminal court. Campbell appears to be HYTA-eligible.

Under HYTA, if someone is charged with a criminal offense, committed on or after their 17th birthday, but before their 21st birthday, a judge may assign them the status of “youthful trainee.” People cannot be eligible for HYTA if they are charged with a felony for which the maximum punishment is life imprisonment, a major controlled substance offense or a traffic offense.

HYTA allows for a “deferred judgment,” rather than a “delaye d sentence.” For example, a “delayed sentence” is reported to the Michigan State Police as a conviction and the court record of judgment and probation is made public. In contrast, a “deferred judgment” is not reported as a conviction and stays out of the public record.

Campbell can no longer go “incognito” with his behavior or his life. But, a conviction would have long-term criminalizing consequences that are too harsh a penalty for someone like him. If Campbell were lucky enough to receive youthful trainee status, he cannot re-offend after completion of HYTA probation, because the earlier charge(s) would appear on his record.

And, most judges will not allow a person to plea under HYTA twice. HYTA, which usually involves community service and restitution is just the opportunity for restorative justice Campbell needs to take responsibility for his actions, rehabilitate himself and get his life back on track so he can take advantage of a brighter tomorrow.

Tracey M. Martin is a writer and criminal defense attorney who specializes in juvenile justice and child welfare law. Martin can be reached at 313.713.3062 or

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