Leslie Turk

LHS basketball star suspended two weeks after arrest

by Leslie Turk

Did LHS star Josh Wiltz get a free pass or were school officials and his coach really in the dark about the circumstances surrounding his late February arrest on drug and weapons charges? Just how hard did school officials work to find more information about his arrest? These are questions many people in Lafayette would like answered.

The one certainty: the LHS Might Lions will make their Top 28 debut Thursday without the starting senior, who Tuesday was suspended from the team  for the remainder of the season. It was Wiltz who scored the winning basket against Destrehan last Friday, Feb. 29, sending his team to this week's Top 28 in the Cajundome.

LHS Principal Patrick Leonard says he found out about the arrest on Tuesday, Feb. 26, and has been trying to obtain more information but got no cooperation from the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Department. "There was an effort to get the arrest report," Leonard says, explaining that his school resource officer called the sheriff's department, "and we were unable to obtain it."

The initial incident report, which contains information like the location of the arrest and who was arrested, along with an affidavit that includes probable cause and a synopsis of the incident, are both public record, says Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Department spokesman Lt. Craig Stansbury. The affidavit would not be public record if it contained sensitive information that could jeapordize the case, like witness names or the names of juveniles, he says. In this case, both the initial incident report and affidavit were made public to local media. "My question to [Leonard] is who did they ask?" Stansbury says. "He didn't ask me."

On Monday of this week, Leonard did receive more information on the arrest of 18-year-old Wiltz, who was charged  with illegal use of weapons, possession of marijuana, illegal use of a controlled drug and illegal carrying of a weapon. The principal initially decided to suspend Wiltz from the team through Thursday, meaning he would have missed the first Top 28 playoff game but would have been back in the action if the team had won. However, when additional details surfaced Tuesday, Leonard suspended the player for the remainder of the season. Leonard declined to disclose how the new information surfaced on Monday afternoon but says he received more details on the arrest Tuesday from Superintendent Burnell Lemoine. (The LHS principal would not say when his resource officer first contacted the sheriff's department, but he maintains that to this day he has not been able to get the information directly from the department.)

Stansbury says the sheriff's department identified three suspicious vehicles, one of which was driven by Wiltz, who gave the sheriff's deputy permission to search the vehicle, where a weapon was found. A small amount of marijuana was found on Wiltz.

Wiltz was booked and released and allowed to continue playing on the team, even starting the game against Destrehan. School officials initially told local media that he was being disciplined but did not give specifics.

According to the school policy, student athletes are to be suspended from competition if they are caught using or possessing drugs, alcohol or tobacco; fighting, stealing, lying, having false identification, forging, cheating, vandalizing or have trouble with the police. Leonard says the policy stipulates that all disciplinary action should be "reasonable and based upon specific circumstances and facts" as determined by the school's administration. "I didn't have any circumstances or facts to review," he says. "It took that long to get the facts."