Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
When Murray State guard Zay Jackson was sentenced to 30 days of jail time after pleading guilty to two charges of wanton endangerment, there was no immediate indication Jackson had seen his final days in a Racers uniform. In fact, MSU athletic director Allen Ward confirmed Friday that Jackson would remain “part of the team this year” after serving his punishment, saying that the senior guard had learned from his mistake, recalibrated his off-court demeanor, and would be welcomed back on campus with open arms. On Monday, after WPSD Local 6 News went public with surveillance footage of Jackson’s parking lot incident, that forgiving posture reached its breaking point. A word of caution: The course of events – the most jarring of which involves Jackson using his white Monte Carlo as a vehicular wrecking ball – are extremely disturbing, and should be viewed with discretion. Details of the confrontation emerged in the wake of Jackson’s initial arraignment, more than a month before Monday’s video release. Alia Clement, one of the victims of Jackson’s wheelside rage, called it “the scariest day I’ve had in my entire life.” According to Clement, the perilous chain of action began when she called out Jackson for pushing a shopping cart into a nearby vehicle. Tensions escalated when Jackson threatened her husband, Jason, who tried to photograph Jackson’s license plate to report his malfeasance. The heated back-and-forth escalated quickly and culminated with Jackson flooring his vehicle right through the Clements.
Nothing has changed with respect to Jackson’s legal status or his length of punishment. He is still slated to finish out a month-long sentence, at which point he will be free to return to campus and, presumably, re-join the men’s basketball team. That was the impression Ward gave after Friday’s sentencing. Several days later, it’s reasonable to think his posture has changed. What once could be shielded by a veil of misinformed public perception (it wasn’t until Monday that everyone found out what really happened) has been spun into a national saga of repulsion and disbelief. Now that the lurid details of Jackson’s heinous act have gone viral, the classification – playing Grand Theft Auto in Walmart parking lots is “wanton endangerment?” Really? – and severity of punishment have been thrown into sharp public scrutiny. From a law enforcement standpoint, unless some other credible details related to Jackson’s actions emerge, his punishment cannot be altered ex post facto on the basis of video evidence. Jackson has been charged and sentenced. Case closed. But Murray State is well within its rights to ramp up Jackson’s punishment on its side of the equation. At this point, it’s almost mandatory.