Willie Smith pleads guilty to disturbing the peace

Saturday, October 3, 2009 | 6:49 p.m. CDT; updated 7:14 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 6, 2009

COLUMBIA — A former MU basketball player who faced charges of resisting arrest and obstructing justice stemming from a March incident pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

Willie Smith, who graduated in 1976 and made the MU Hall of Fame, pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace Sept. 25. He said police used excessive force while placing him under arrest, which the Columbia Police Department denied in May after an internal investigation.


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The case had been scheduled to go to trial Oct. 2.

He is required to pay a $150 fine.

Smith said he took the lesser charge because he wants the situation resolved and does not want to shoulder the expenses of a drawn-out trial.

"I never wanted to fight," Smith said. "I never asked for that."

Smith, who owns Mama Bessie's Cleaners* and a janitorial service, was arrested March 9 when he and his nephew were cleaning Bella Salon on John Garry Drive. The burglar alarm for Smokin' Chick's BBQ, which is next door, was activated.

When police arrived on the scene, Smith and his nephew were sitting in their car, and the responding officer told Smith to put his hands on the dashboard. Smith refused, according to police accounts of the incident, and kept his hands folded under his armpits.

The officer then asked Smith to exit his car, and the police said Smith began to use profanity. The officer used pepper spray on him to take him into custody.

After reviewing audio and video accounts of the incident, the department's Professional Standards Unit said the officer acted appropriately in the incident.

Smith said he has not lost any respect for the department because of this incident but said it needed a "gut check" and a "heart check" with regards to how it disciplined the officer who arrested him.

"I know there are some fine officers," Smith said. "But there are some that are tough who are not fair."

He added, "They wanted more to discredit me than to reprimand this officer."

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