Athlete sentenced for credit card fraud

by Chris Vetter

A former University football player was sentenced Tuesday in Ramsey County court on felony charges of theft and credit card fraud.
Joe Justice will enter a diversion program, under which he will be on probation for one year. At the end of the year, all criminal charges will be dismissed if he doesn’t break probation. Justice must also perform 100 hours of community service and write a letter of apology to Dayton’s, where he was arrested.
The diversion program is for first-time offenders who are charged with a serious crime. Judge Margaret Marrinan said that Justice is a “good candidate for this program.”
Justice was charged with credit card fraud and theft after he and another University football player, Billy Dee Cockerham, were arrested May 24 at the Roseville Dayton’s. According to the criminal complaint, the two bought $852.47 worth of clothing with a stolen credit card number. Both men are charged with felonies in the incident.
Dressed in blue jeans and an Atlanta Braves baseball jersey, Justice appeared nervous in court and was very soft-spoken. He said he was happy to be placed in the program because his record will be cleared in one year.
Justice was dismissed June 7 from the University football team. Cockerham was suspended pending further investigation. Justice said he wasn’t sure why Cockerham was not dismissed as well, but added it was probably because he is a junior and should have known better. Cockerham, a red-shirt freshman, practices with the team but has not played in any regular season football games.
The incident involved Cockerham, Justice and their girlfriends, Sabrina Rosario and Tara Taylor, who are not University students. According to the complaint, Cockerham, Justice and Rosario brought the merchandise to a register. Taylor, who worked at Dayton’s, placed both paid and unpaid merchandise in bags. She then charged the merchandise to the stolen account.
Justice will not make another court appearance until July 30, 1997. If mets the terms of his sentence, all charges will be dropped.