DETROIT – Michigan standout defensive lineman Mazi Smith will play for the Wolverines in the Big Ten championship game this weekend against Purdue while facing a felony charge of carrying a concealed gun.
The charge was filed in an Ann Arbor court, nearly two months after the handgun turned up during a traffic stop. Smith, a 21-year-old senior and team co-captain from Grand Rapids, Michigan, had four tackles and one assist against Indiana on Oct. 8, the day after the incident.
Smith appeared in court by video Thursday. Defense attorney John Shea said Smith was in the process of getting a concealed-weapon permit when he was stopped by police.
“He does have it now,” Shea told a magistrate.
“He was asked whether there was a weapon in the car,” Shea said. “He was honest. He was forthright. He was completely cooperative.”
No. 2 Michigan, which is expected to make the four-team College Football Playoff field for a second straight year, is playing the Boilermakers in Indianapolis on Saturday for the Big Ten championship. Smith will continue to participate with the team, athletic director Warde Manuel said.
“Mazi was honest, forthcoming and cooperative from the very beginning and is a tremendous young man. He is not and never has been considered a threat to the university or community,” Manuel said.
Coach Jim Harbaugh said he’s confident that a “fair and just resolution is forthcoming.”
“Mazi’s character and the trust that he has earned over the past four years will continue to be considered throughout the process,” Harbaugh said.
Ann Arbor police said Smith was stopped for speeding on Oct. 7 and found to have a handgun but not a concealed-pistol permit. He was arrested, taken to the police station and released.
Washtenaw County prosecutor Eli Savit said Smith wasn’t charged at that time because he wasn’t kept in custody, which allowed for further investigation.
“When a defendant is not in custody, authorization of charges generally moves slower. It was a wholly unremarkable timeline when a suspect isn’t in custody,” Savit told the Detroit Free Press.
The 6-foot-3, 337-pound Smith had a tackle and three assists in last weekend’s 45-23 victory over Ohio State. He has started in all 26 games for the Wolverines over the past two seasons.
The same prosecutor’s office struck a deal with Eastern Michigan basketball star Emoni Bates who was arrested and similarly charged in September with carrying a concealed weapon in a car. Bates settled the matter with a misdemeanor. He said it was not his car or gun.