The recent talk of Nittany Nation has been the multiple counts of forgery and theft by deception lodged against highly touted LB recruit Zayd Issah on March 10, 2013, in Dauphin County. Issah and his friends allegedly tried to pass counterfeit bills at the North Front Street McDonald’s and other fast food joints around Harrisburg. Issah is already 18, so he has been charged as an adult.
Stories like this pop up in the news all the time. A young person with a far more promising future than most of his peers does something so absolutely, unfathomably stupid, that we are left scratching our heads. Because 18 year old athletes look like full-grown adults physically, it is easy to forget that they are still adolescent kids mentally. Brain researchers have concluded that the prefrontal cortex does not fully develop in humans until age of 25. This is the part of the brain, which controls complex thought and decision making. In other words, young people often do stupid things because their brains are not yet fully developed. And that is precisely why someone like Zayd Issah should be amenable to rehabilitation. He just needs to grow up.
Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico has suggested that Issah may be a candidate for the ARD program. That would certainly be a dream outcome to this case. If Issah successfully completes ARD, his attorney can file a motion to have all the charges dismissed and have his record expunged.
The big question on the minds of Penn State fans is how Coach Bill O’Brien will react. Those with long memories may recall that Joe Paterno faced a similar situation with promising WR Bobby Engram, who would go on to be one of the best wide-outs in program history, win the first ever Biletnikoff Award, and have a long NFL career. Perhaps more importnantly, Engram went on to become a model citizen and teammate.
When Engram was charged with serious felonies early in his Penn State career, JoePa could have booted him from the team and sent him on his way. Likewise, District Attorney Ray Gricar could have prosecuted Engram to the full extent of the law. But Engram was given a second chance by both the DA and his head coach. Engram was accepted onto the ARD program, and when he successfully completed ARD, Paterno allowed Engram back onto the team. I think a similar approach would work with Issah. Coach BOB should redshirt Issah next season and keep him on a short leash. If Issah successfully completes ARD in Dauphin County, has decent grades, and follows all team rules, he should be given the chance to see playing time in 2014.
Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense attorney, Penn State alumnus and ardent Nittany Lion fan in State College, PA. http://www.mattmlaw.com/About-Attorney-McClenahen/