Missouri team captain arrested on drug charge

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Safety Jason Simpson has been suspended and will not travel to Louisiana for the Independence Bowl.

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- First came the campus parking ticket. Then a littering charge for tossing the ticket to the ground.

Now Missouri football captain Jason Simpson will miss the final game of his college career after a weekend arrest for marijuana possession -- an arrest police made after Simpson's name popped up in a criminal database for failing to appear in court on the littering charge.

Simpson, a three-year starter at safety and the team's second-leading tackler this season, was suspended by coach Gary Pinkel following the Sunday night arrest.

The suspension means Simpson, 22, will not play nor travel to the school's Dec. 30 Independence Bowl game against South Carolina in Shreveport, La.

Simpson was not at Tuesday's practice and did not reply to an e-mail requesting comment or to a message left on his cell phone.

Columbia police arrested Simpson at 11:20 p.m. Sunday on an initial charge of failure to appear in municipal court for the littering charge. After a search, he was cited for possession of less than 35 grams of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. All three charges are misdemeanors.

Officers were first sent to a south Columbia apartment where Simpson was found because of a loud music complaint. It was not immediately clear if Simpson lives at the apartment where he was arrested; he provided the two arresting officers with a different home address.

A subsequent search of Simpson's name in the police department's database revealed an outstanding warrant for his arrest for not showing up in court on Aug. 26, 2004, one month after he received the campus parking ticket.

Court officials also sent Simpson a letter one month after his missed court appearance, records show.

The drugs Simpson is charged with possessing were "in plain sight" at the apartment, officer Dave Waldrup told the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Simpson was issued two citations on the drug charges and posted $100 bond for the warrant. He is the third Missouri football starter in the past two years to be suspended after a drug- or alcohol-related arrest.

Linebacker Marcus Bacon was suspended for the New Mexico game this season after a Sept. 3 arrest for driving while intoxicated. And linebacker David Richard was suspended for one game last year after an early season arrest for marijuana possession.

Interviewed after practice, Pinkel declined to elaborate on Simpson's conduct. The defensive leader was also suspended for one game as a sophomore for arguing with an assistant coach during a game.

"I don't ever discuss the discipline things, although I'm very consistent with what I do," Pinkel said.

While the arrest damaged Simpson's status with the Missouri football team -- and likely his position in the NFL draft's pecking order -- he won't face significant punishment for the marijuana charges.

Columbia voters in 2004 overwhelmingly approved a law that sharply reduced the penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Such violations are now considered low-level misdemeanor offenses subject to municipal court fines of no more than $250 -- a punishment essentially equivalent to receiving a speeding ticket.

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