University of Miami

Dismissed Hurricanes player's attorney: UM's lawyers did 'some shady sh--'

Miami Hurricanes linebacker Jermaine Grace (5) moves during day three of fall football practice at the University of Miami on Saturday, August 6, 2016.
Miami Hurricanes linebacker Jermaine Grace (5) moves during day three of fall football practice at the University of Miami on Saturday, August 6, 2016. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Former University of Miami linebacker Jermaine Grace, who was dismissed from the team Saturday for allegedly violating NCAA rules amidst a luxury-rental car probe, will not be appealing the decision, according to his attorney, and is in the midst of deciding his next step.

“I have a release for Jermaine and he can transfer to any other [Football Championship Subdivision] school and play immediately if he wanted to,” said Steven L. Washington, Grace’s attorney. “He doesn’t have a school picked out yet. He also hasn’t decided what he’s going to do. He could always finish school at Miami and then decide what he wants to do after that.”

Grace, the team’s leading tackler last season and a graduate of Miramar High, was kicked off the team Saturday along with defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad, who led UM in sacks last season with five. It’s unknown if Muhammad — who had a more troubled history than Grace at UM having been suspended for the entire 2014 season — is planning to appeal the decision or not.

UM’s probe was centered on South Beach Exotic Rentals and whether Grace and Muhammad received heavily discounted luxury cars in exchange for some future stake in their careers. UM is still on NCAA probation related to former booster Nevin Shapiro and that probation does not end until the third week of October.

Washington said Grace didn’t receive a fair shake in this probe because of previous sanctions.

Washington said Grace had an uncle who rented a luxury car for him during his freshman year at UM so he could take his girlfriend, who was still a senior in high school, to the prom.

Washington said Grace provided all the necessary documentation — including proof of his uncle’s direct relation to him — to the UM’s compliance office. Washington said Grace never rented any other cars from South Beach Exotic Rentals and didn’t receive any discounts.

The owner for South Beach Exotic Rentals, Juan Caballero, told the Miami Herald on Saturday he provided UM’s compliance office the documentation “to exonerate” Grace. As of Sunday afternoon, Caballero still had not provided the proof to the Herald. When he spoke to The Herald several weeks ago Caballero said he was unfamiliar with Jermaine Grace and did not know who he was.

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“The University wanted those kids to admit to something they had absolutely no proof of or things that didn’t occur,” Washington said. “I can say from my own experience in representing Jermaine [since June] we provided phone records, documentation, and we were always available and always cooperative. There has not been to date any physical proof of them receiving any type of improper benefit — just hearsay.”

Washington said Grace was informed of the school’s decision Saturday in a meeting with athletic director Blake James. Washington said Grace was surprised by the outcome because until this point he had been practicing with the first team, going to class and doing everything a normal student-athlete would do.

“I’m a criminal defense attorney,” Washington said. “As bad as the judicial system is, there’s no conceivable way Jermaine should have been given the death penalty by UM. Not when the guys in the Nevin Shapiro case didn’t. They got four, five, six games at most. And they had proof, documentation against those kids.

“In our meetings, it was ‘We heard this person said this and this person said that.’ Because these people wanted to believe this is what occurred, it was hard to defend it. They always put the burden on us without telling us who the heck said anything.”

Washington said Grace was ultimately dismissed for a 10-1 violation, or not being forthcoming with school officials at the onset of the probe in February. He said Grace cooperated with school officials after that.

“He’s a 21-year-old kid who doesn’t know how it works,” Washington said. “Put me in a room, take my cellphone from me and tell me not to tell anybody, what’s going on and you have to admit this happened — these are young kids, man. When [UM’s] lawyers were involved they did take attempts to circumvent us. They would meet with Jermaine, send him text messages without my permission. It was some shady [expletive].

“Jermaine was in a very tough spot. It’s his livelihood. Their lawyers basically told us the school was overreacting just to be on the safe side, make sure they didn’t get [penalized] by the NCAA. But at what expense? At the end of the day it’s about these kids.”

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