Football player suspended after frat fight

By Michael McFall, Staff Writer

Police arrived at the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house early Saturday morning where students reported that Lisi Leota, a U football player, had punched several people at the fraternity’s Halloween party, according to a police report.

Police arrived at the party at 1:30 a.m. to find two students walking out of the house with obvious facial injuries, according to the report. Leota was trying to leave through the back door when police arrived.

The officers did not arrest Leota because they did not witness the incident, said Detective Dennis McGowan of the Salt Lake City Police Department.

“It was unprofessional of them,” said Chase Harlin, a U alumnus listed as a witness in the police report. “There were guys with blood on their faces.”

Two of the injured students said they plan to file assault charges against Leota as soon as possible.

Kyle Whittingham, the head coach of the Utah football team, released a statement saying the players and coaching staff are aware of the situation and that Leota has been suspended from the team indefinitely.

Leota said he was getting pushed around and harassed by some of the fraternity men, and his reaction was in self-defense in the heat of the moment.

However, Leota said that he put himself in a situation where he didn’t belong, made a mistake, and wants to apologize for his actions and repair the damage done to his team and his relationship with Greek Row.

“I accept full responsibility, and I’m not going to make any excuses,” he said. Whittingham did exactly what a coach should do to any teammate who makes a mistake, he said.

McGowan said, if found guilty, Leota could be charged with misdemeanor assault at the most.

The injured students8212;Esteban Martinez, a senior in parks, recreation and tourism who had a broken nose and a concussion; and Chase Straight, a senior in mass communication who works as a writer for The Daily Utah Chronicle, who had a cut lip, a broken tooth and a concussion8212;were transported to the U Hospital by police.

Straight said he was punched twice in the face. Once he was on the ground, Leota stomped on his face, knocking out one of his teeth, he said. Straight also said Leota shoved a woman around the room and punched Martinez when he tried to stop him.

Joey Lambert, the fraternity’s president, said that Leota broke a table and threw Dominick Perrier-Strand, a senior in business and film, down a flight of stairs. He did not tell police about what happened to Strand.

Straight said Leota came into the house looking for his brother to give him a ride and was furious because he thought the partygoers had done something with him.

But Leota said he only entered the house because he thought he heard someone inviting him in by calling his name, and it was never his intention to hit someone.

When police arrived, Leota said party attendees were the ones beating him up, although he had no visible injuries other than some blood on his shirt and scraped knuckles, according to the report.

Police officers decided there wasn’t enough probable cause to arrest Leota and told him to apologize to the people he had hit, McGowan said. Officers also advised the injured students to file charges if they want.

At least one of the victims feels that wasn’t enough, and that police should have made an arrest.

“We pay them $200 (a month) to patrol our area, and they did nothing,” Straight said. “It’s unbelievable.”

[email protected]

Lisi Leota