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Former Prep Star Charged With Sex Assault

July 31, 1996

CHICAGO (AP) _ It has not been a good year for Ronnie Fields.

The three-time all-state basketball player with a 40-inch vertical leap averaged more than 30 points and 10 rebounds a game last season at Farragut High School. As recently as February, he had a shot at following former Farragut teammate Kevin Garnett directly from prep ball to the NBA.

But on Feb. 26, the 6-foot-3-inch guard broke three vertebrae in a car crash, ending his hopes for turning pro this year. He recovered quickly, began playing AAU basketball this summer and signed a letter of intent to play for DePaul University in the fall.

Last week, he was denied admission because his grades and test scores were too low.

And Tuesday, he was charged with misdemeanor criminal sexual assault.

Fields, 19, and two acquaintances assaulted a 20-year-old woman early July 22 in the Lombard apartment of former Farragut assistant coach Ron Eskridge, prosecutors said.

The three, ``knowing that the victim was unable to give consent, had sexual contact with her for the purpose of sexual arousal,″ according to the complaint filed Tuesday.

Prosecutors would not say why the woman was unable to consent and refused to describe the nature of the contact.

Fields declined to comment after a brief court hearing Tuesday. He was released on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond, as were co-defendants Charles Johnson, 19, and Leonard Watts, 29. Johnson and Fields were teammates at Farragut.

``All three men are maintaining their innocence,″ said Richard Kayne, a lawyer representing the trio.

Eskridge, who said he was out of town at the time of the alleged attack, said Fields is upset about the incident.

``His involvement in it was something he didn’t even realize was involvement,″ Eskridge said. ``It’s not like grabbing someone and twisting their arm.″

If convicted, each man could be sentenced to one year in prison and fined up to $1,000.

Arraignment was scheduled for Aug. 27.

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