Zayd Issah, an erstwhile highly touted linebacker in the 2013 Penn State recruiting class, has accepted a favorable plea offer, which will spare him a violent felony conviction and additional jail time. During Arts Fest in downtown State College last summer, Issah was involved in an altercation with police, leading to two counts of aggravated assault on police officers, one count of simple assault, five counts of resisting arrest and one count of possession of small amount of marijuana for personal use. Pursuant to the plea agreement accepted by Judge Pamela A. Ruest of the Centre County Court of Common Pleas, Issah pled guilty to simple assault, resisting arrest and possession of a small amount of marijuana for a sentence of five days to 23.5 months. Issah previously served five days before posting bail, so he will serve additional jail time in this case only if he violates parole.
Whether or not Issah can successfully walk off close to two years of parole supervision is far from certain, given his recent track record. Penn State revoked Issah's football scholarship last spring after he was charged with forgery and theft by deception in Dauphin County after allegedly using counterfeit currency. Earlier this fall, he was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.
Issah received a dream outcome in the counterfeit money case, when he was placed onto the ARD program. Not everyone receives ARD in this type of case, and I suspect that Issah's young age played a major factor in the DA's decision to approve him for ARD. Someone my age knowingly passing counterfeit bills should know better, and should not expect ARD. Had Issah completed ARD, those charges would be dismissed and ultimately expunged. Yet now, he will almost certainly be removed from the Dauphin County ARD program. The most basic aspect of ARD is that one not be convicted of a new criminal offense while on the ARD program. So, now those felony forgery and misdemeanor theft by deception charges will come back to life.
It is an absolute shame to see a young man with so much potential flush his opportunities down the toilet. Before the counterfeit money charges were filed, Bill O'Brien mentioned Issah as someone who could contribute immediately as a true freshman. Given the injuries we had this season at an already thin linebacker position, we certainly have missed the presence of a player of Issah's talent.
I hope Issah can eventually get his life back together and play college football somewhere, however, given his off the field behavior, I do not see any major football program being willing to take a risk on him. He will probably have to prove himself at the JUCO level before he has a realistic chance to play for an FBS team.
Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense attorney in State College, Pennsylvania and a die-hard Penn State football fan. http://www.mattmlaw.com/Criminal-Defense-Overview/Concerns-for-Penn-State-Students.shtml