Kelly Whitney can be added to the list of present and former Seton Hall basketball players who had their name placed on a New Jersey police report this year.
On March 18, the 27-year-old Whitney was arrested by South Orange police officers and members of the Essex County Prosecutors Office in a hotel room in Newark, according to the Essex County Prosecutors Office.
He is facing counts of kidnapping, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary and weapons charges for allegedly being former player Robert Mitchell’s accomplice in a March 15 home robbery incident on Irvington Ave. in South Orange, NJ.
Current undergraduate students, perhaps more aware of Mitchell as a player than Whitney, seem opinionated overall about the situation.
“It puts a bad image on the university and is an embarrassment to athletics,” sophomore Michael Grajales said. “Athletes are supposed to be role models for Seton Hall. This is casting a dark cloud over the university.”
Whitney, a Chicago native, was arraigned on Monday and entered a not guilty plea at Superior Court in Newark before Judge Amilkar Velez-Lopez. Whitney appeared via video conference from Essex County Jail.
Velez-Lopez has ordered Whitney to stay away from the campus and to have no contact with the witnesses or victims of the alleged incident.
NJ.com (The Star-Ledger) reported earlier in the week that investigators are probing into the relationship between Whitney and Mitchell.
“This is hurting our recruitment,” sophomore Matthew Berner said. “We already lost the track team. We need to improve the program for the sake of the university.”
Whitney was a member of the Pirates’ basketball team from 2002-2006. At the power forward position, he averaged over 30 minutes a game and double-digit scoring through his entire Seton Hall career.
He played in two NCAA Tournaments with the Hall under former head coach Louis Orr. In 2004, a year that Whitney averaged 13.6 points per game, he helped lead the No. 8 seeded Pirates to a comeback win over No. 9 seeded Arizona, 80-76, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Whitney scored 24 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the March 18, 2004 game – the last time the Pirates have won a contest in the NCAA Tournament.
In a separate article on NJ.com, Whitney’s mother, Sharon, spoke of a phone conversation with her son. Sharon Whitney recounted Kelly saying he was “concerned with rumors on the street” regarding his involvement.
According to the Essex County Prosecutors Office, Mitchell and Whitney allegedly broke into the South Orange home on March 15 and ordered all eight occupants into a common room where he held them at gunpoint and stole their possessions.
“It’s sickening. Lots of people here are already afraid of this area. This is terrifying that a student is capable of this,” junior Manny Scarpinato said. “How could students want to come here? It’s ruining our reputation.”
The Essex County Prosecutors Office has said that they believe that both Mitchell and Whitney worked together in committing the crime, but had no further comment.
According to a source who requested to remain anonymous, out of the eight victims of the armed robbery, a total of seven are members of the Seton Hall community.
Mitchell also pleaded not guilty to the charges when arraigned on March 18 at Superior Court in Newark. Just as Whitney did, Mitchell appeared in court via a video conference on a television in the courtroom from Essex County jail, where he is being held on the same $650,000 bail.
Velez-Lopez told Mitchell and his attorney that if bail is posted, Mitchell will be able to return to school. He was dismissed from the basketball team a day prior to the alleged incident.
“Chances are if he had a gun it was here on campus at a time – that would make me uncomfortable,” sophomore Omar Ahmad said. “People here have had less serious crimes and more serious punishments.”
Sophomore Lexi Pounds called for a harsher punishment for Mitchell’s alleged involvement.
“He should be expelled,” Pounds said. “He is representing the school in a very bad way.”
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