Facing a felony charge for possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of a school, Texas Longhorns tight end signee Reese Leitao will appear in court on April 18 for the first time since pleading not guilty to the February 28 charge.
During an administrative search at Jenks High School at that time, Leitao admitted to selling the anti-anxiety drug Xanax, a controlled substance. At the time, Leitao was in possession of $1,309 in cash and 20 pills, 19 of which were stored in a prescription bottle in his underwear.
However, there’s still a chance that Leitao could keep his scholarship at Texas, albeit a small one, according to Leitao’s attorney Allen Smallwood.
“If somehow this case can be dismissed for legal or factual reasons, or can be reduced to a misdemeanor, Coach Herman described (Leitao) as having ‘a fighting chance’ to keep his scholarship,” Smallwood said.
That reduction in charges could potentially happen as soon as April 18.
Fortunately for Leitao, having good legal representation — he’s the son of DePaul basketball coach Dave Leitao — and being a 4.0 student with a reputation for maturation both weigh in his favor.
In fact, a Tulsa County district attorney admitted as much in the latter case.
“Will we let the fact that he has a scholarship change our decision? No, but it is a factor,” said first assistant district attorney Erik Grayless.
“When you have a young man such as Mr. Leitao, you take everything they’ve done into consideration when making a recommendation. You take into account (whether) it was an isolated incident. You take into account if there was a history. You take into account the reputation and background of the person. Family support. Those sorts of things all factor into the mix of what I’ll call his intangibles. You compare that to what the facts of the case allege, and then you make a just decision.”
So the task facing Smallwood, who has been practicing in Tulsa since 1976 and is the top-rated criminal defense attorney in Tulsa, according to SuperLawyers.com, is to convince the district attorney that Leitao deserves a second chance.
Otherwise, the fact that the arrest report states Leitao admitted to distributing Xanax and the circumstantial evidence of the cash on his person at the time are aspects of the case seemingly working against the Longhorns tight end signee.
As a result, the best-case scenario would seem be reaching a plea deal for a misdemeanor. However, that could be difficult — Xanax fits the classifications for a Schedule III drug in Oklahoma, the possession of which is a misdemeanor.
The escalator here is the fact that Leitao was in possession of the controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school, and that’s a felony in Oklahoma, too, with double the penalty of simple possession.
Even if Smallwood can convince the district attorney to give Leitao a plea deal for a possession conviction within 1,000 feet of a school, the resulting felony would cause him to lose his scholarship at Texas, according to Smallwood’s relation of what Herman told Leitao.
The stringent laws and court system of Oklahoma don’t help — the state has the third-highest incarceration rate in the country and its percentage of drug offenders is 25 percent higher than the national average.
Certainly, the “intangibles” and reputation of Leitao could help him here, just as those qualities boosted the perception of his potential as a football player.
But given the drug laws of Oklahoma, Leitao’s alleged admission of distribution, his possession of 20 Xanax, and the large amount of cash on his person at the time of his arrest would seem to significantly lessen his opportunity to earn a “fighting chance” at keeping his scholarship at Texas.
Somehow, Smallwood needs to get a reduction of charges below simple possession of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school, despite the apparent evidence suggesting that such a charge would be a victory for Leitao’s future outside of college football at Texas.