“It was a secret from me that he even got in trouble. If they had told me from the beginning, I would have told him don’t talk to no police and make no statement. Cuz they’ll use it against him.”
ANTIONE’S SON NEEDED a lawyer.
Krishon, a senior football player at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, Okla., was weeks away from graduating in 2013, when he and four other teammates faced criminal charges.
They had faked robberies as an April Fool’s Day prank on their friends.
Fingerprinted, Krishon was incredulous – how did he get here?
When Antione was shuttled off to prison two decades earlier, Krishon was a tot. When Antione was released, Krishon had just finished the eighth grade.
Over the years, Krishon had never really known why his father was in prison, let alone the circumstances of his wrongful conviction. And when Antione won his freedom, he didn’t reveal much more to his son, except to warn him to be careful, to not get himself into any situations.
Almost ten years later, Krishon was in a situation.
“I found out in the eleventh hour,” Antione said after learning of Krishon’s arrest and suspension from school. “I want him to learn something from this. When I talk to him, I’m the old man. But when you’re in hot water, when your ass is on the line, then you call Superman.”
In the early morning hours of April 2, after a series of innocuous pranks all day, Krishon and four friends, decided to scare their friends. They dressed in dark clothing and covered their faces with masks fashioned from a pillow case.
They were black. The city of Durant, mostly white. The targets of their prank – first, other teammates. But later on, their white girlfriends.
The young men banged on doors, busted in, yelled and pretended their cell phones were guns so convincingly that police reported one of the victims (a friend) saying he saw two 9 mm handguns, black in color.
There were no guns, and no one was physically harmed. But the girls were terrified.
“Maybe other people could get away with pretending to be criminals, black people can’t do it. It was a big deal down here,” a local minister told Chicago Sun-Times writer Mary Mitchell, who covered the story after the NAACP sued Southeastern Oklahoma State University for its handling of the case.
After a police investigation ensued, along with rumors about what had really happened, the five players turned themselves in.
“You tried to scare little white girls” is what Krishon says an officer told them during their interview.
The officer also memorialized the statement in his report, albeit with a different tone: “When speaking to one of the parties above I asked if he knew that he scared a lot of young ladies with the prank. He laughed and said it wouldn’t have been funny if they wouldn’t have been. He said it was just a prank taken too far.”
Krishon had long tried to stay out of trouble, and above all, he never wanted to do time like his father.
“I feel stupid for putting myself in a situation where I had to go to jail because I told myself I never would,” he says.
After their suspension from the university, the students appealed. It seemed ill-fated from the start. Krishon overheard a board member say to a professor that “he would have shot them if they had
knocked on his door.”
Meanwhile, the district attorney for the 19th District of Oklahoma wanted to prosecute. Antione paid for a lawyer.
Months later, the players were offered several plea deals. Krishon rejected all of them. But when his mom started talking about getting a new lawyer, he decided it was time to take the punishment and move on.
The students ended up with about a month of jail time, part of a 90-day sentence, plus three years of probation and a couple thousand dollars in court fees.
Jail was about what Krishon had imagined. He felt angry, as he had imagined. He worked odd jobs, as he had imagined. The guards were on a power trip, as he had imagined.
“It wasn’t something I’d ever do again,” he says.
Krishon left jail with about a semester of college to redo. He would have to finish his business marketing degree somewhere else.
Until then, he would earn a paycheck as a counselor at a fitness center and use his athletic expertise to help people get in shape.
And every month, as his court fees would come due, he would pay up and feel mad at himself all over again.