Appeals court gives state more time in ex-BU player’s case

Sam Ukwuachu (Jail photo)
Sam Ukwuachu (Jail photo)(KWTX)
Published: Jan. 14, 2019 at 4:16 PM CST
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A regional state appeals court has issued a new order in the ongoing appeal of the 2015 sexual assault conviction of former Baylor University football player Sam Ukwuachu, whose case helped fuel the scandal that engulfed the school’s football program.

The order from the Waco-based 10th Court of Appeals issued on Jan. 2 allows the state more time and space to prepare its argument supporting the conviction of sexual assault against Ukwuachu.

In August 2015, the one-time All-American who transferred to Baylor, but never played for the school, was found guilty of raping an 18-year-old female athlete in October 2013.

He could have been sentenced to as much as 20 years in prison, but jurors decided on probation and ultimately State District Judge Matt Johnson sentenced Ukwuachu to 10 years on probation, 180 days in county jail and ordered him to perform 400 hours of community service.

Ukwuachu was released from jail on a $100,000 appeal bond on Oct. 29, 2015.

On March 23, 2017, the Waco-based 10th Court of Appeals reversed the conviction based upon evidence presented during arguments before the appeals panel that brought question to some evidence that was presented in trial, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reinstated the conviction last summer, ruling the 10th court erred by overturning the conviction based on text messages between the victim and a friend that had not been allowed in trial.

Ukwuachu's attorney had argued the earlier text messages would have shown that the woman consented to sex.

The Court of Criminal Appeals ruling allowed him to continue appealing his conviction, but not on the text message issue.

Appeals lawyers for Ukwuachu also argued that evidence from cellular telephone records pertaining to certain times that phones were used proved that the prosecution’s assertion that the times recorded on the cell phones supported their case against Ukwuachu.

Prosecutors said the phone records proved that a witness for the defendant lied in his testimony because the data showed that the witness could not have been at Ukwuachu’s apartment at the time of the incident and could not have witnessed the interaction between Ukwuachu and his accuser.

But in the appeal lawyers argued that times posted by prosecutors were local times and the times included in the data actually were six hours earlier than the local time.