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Elam avoids jail time

Meghanne Downes | Tuesday, October 28, 2003

A former Notre Dame football player convicted of sexual battery in September will not serve jail time but was placed on two years of probation and must complete 200 hours of community service.

St. Joseph County Superior Judge Roland Chamblee delivered Abram Elam’s sentence Friday after reviewing pleas from both the prosecution, defense, Elam and alleged victim regarding sentencing and said during his ruling he struggled with his decision.

“This is as close to a no-win position as I’ve found myself in 14 years,” Chamblee said according to the South Bend Tribune.

Elam was the only former Notre Dame football player convicted on a charge stemming from an alleged gang rape in March 2002. Chamblee originally delayed Elam’s sentencing from early October until a conclusion was reached in the other three trials.

But a separate jury found Donald Dykes not guilty on all charges, and special prosecutor Maureen Devlin dropped all charges against Lorenzo Crawford and Justin Smith after conversing with jurors from the Elam and Dykes trials and experts related to the case.

Devlin said during the sentencing hearing that Elam was told no by the woman but persisted, and should be incarcerated.

Defense attorney Mark Lenyo appealed to the sympathy of the court and argued during the hearing that Elam’s felony conviction should be downgraded to a misdemeanor. Lenyo said a felony conviction prevented his client from receiving scholarship he was offered to complete his education. Elam, who works in a dentist office and completed his associate’s degree in business at a community college, apologized for his actions and asked for the opportunity to contribute to his community and family.

Indiana law would have permitted Chamblee to consider Elam’s Class D felony conviction as a misdemeanor for sentencing; however, Chamblee said during sentencing he could not do this in good conscience.

Though the woman said during the hearing Elam should be punished for his individual actions and not for the rest of the group, Chamblee said, “I’m not going to use you as an example. She wants you sentenced for what everyone did.”

Chamblee said the defendants had already been punished enough and did not find it necessary to incarcerate Elam. He gave him an 18-month suspended sentence. Elam, who is from Riviera Beach, Fla., must cover court costs and fees and may serve his two-year probation in his home county.

Devlin said to the South Bend Tribune following the sentencing that the woman was disappointed that Elam will not be incarcerated.

“Abram Elam is a convicted felon as he should be,” Devlin said. “Having a felony conviction is significant.”

The South Bend Tribune contributed to this article.