Husker running back Maurice Washington pleads not guilty in California case

Husker running back Maurice Washington pleads not guilty in California case
Maurice Washington has been a limited participant in practices this spring, but he won't play in the spring game on Saturday. CHRIS MACHIAN/THE WORLD-HERALD

Husker running back Maurice Washington pleaded not guilty Wednesday to both charges he faces in a California court case in which he is accused of sending a 10-second video of a sex act to the girl who was in the video.

Washington appeared in a Santa Clara County courtroom for the first time Wednesday afternoon. He had returned to the state in March after a judge issued a warrant for his arrest.

Washington on Wednesday acknowledged the charges against him and entered an initial plea of not guilty to one felony charge and one misdemeanor charge. The charges stemmed from an alleged March 2018 text that Washington sent to a girl that purportedly included an old video of the girl, then 15, performing oral sex.

Washington does not appear in the video and did not record the video.

The felony charge is possession of a video of a person under 18 engaging in or simulating sexual conduct. The misdemeanor charge is sharing a recording without the person’s consent.

Washington’s next hearing will be May 13, said Benjamin Rada, a spokesman for Santa Clara County Superior Court. The purpose of the hearing will be to determine which attorney will be representing him. It would take place after the spring semester at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has completed.

John Ball, a Lincoln criminal defense lawyer and Washington’s attorney, does not have a license to practice in California, Rada said. Ball did not appear in court with Washington on Wednesday. Instead, an attorney with the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office appeared with Washington as stand-in representation. Ball could not be immediately reached Wednesday afternoon for comment.

Rada said it would be “extremely rare” for both sides to reach a plea deal before the May hearing, which Washington may not be required to attend.

Washington had posted 10 percent of his $35,000 bail in March and was released from Santa Clara County custody within hours of being booked into jail. He returned to Nebraska and has practiced this spring with the Husker football team. Coach Scott Frost said Wednesday that Washington won’t be playing in Saturday’s spring game.

“Overall, I think Maurice has done a good job trying to stick to the norm and what practice he has done, he’s looked good,” Frost said Wednesday. Washington has been a limited participant in spring football practices because of his legal issues. “We’re going to sit back and let the process play out and see where it lands.”

The girl in the video and Washington had dated in ninth grade at a California high school but reconnected over Instagram last year after the girl wanted to congratulate Washington, then attending a Texas high school, for signing to play football at Nebraska. The communication turned flirtatious, and the girl told Santa Clara County investigators that Washington was trying to make romantic advances. The girl told Washington she just wanted to be friends.

Then, according to a Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office affidavit, Washington sent the video to the girl, saying, “Remember this hoe.”

The Nebraska Athletic Department has said Frost and other officials were not aware of the specific allegations when investigators contacted the university in the fall to try to reach Washington. Officials introduced Washington to former Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning to represent him. Bruning is a friend of Frost and Matt Davison, an associate athletic director at Nebraska, and a supporter of the athletic department.

Bruning acted as Washington’s lawyer until Ball took over the case a week before a judge signed the arrest warrant in February.

World-Herald staff writer Sam McKewon contributed to this report.