The other side of a crime alert

By Quinn Ford

Miquan Boyd is a skinny guy, standing 5 feet 9 inches and weighing in it at around 150 pounds.

He says he prides himself on dressing stylishly, wearing a maroon and gold T-shirt with polished Nike shoes to match. He is quick to smile - a little shy at first but engaging in conversation.

But on Sept. 12, Champaign police arrested the 19-year-old Urbana resident for being part of a group which beat up a 20-year-old Parkland College student on Green Street at 2 a.m. Boyd, who eventually pleaded guilty, was the only one charged at the time with mob action and aggravated battery, putting a face on the series of assaults that has alarmed the campus community since August.

However, Boyd said he should not be the face and that, despite his plea, he did not strike the victim. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. According to the police report, officers saw a fight occurring in the 500 block of East Green Street. The officers were part of an undercover detail employed to address the recent string of aggravated assaults and batteries on campus.

As officers approached, the offenders fled, and Boyd was the only one the officers caught. They said they found him sitting on a bench on the corner of Sixth and Green streets and recognized he had been involved. The victim stated that he and his girlfriend had been walking on Green Street when the group passed and began making racial comments because she was black and they thought he was white. (He actually is Polynesian.) He said his girlfriend made retorts, and when the victim tried to get her to leave, the situation turned violent.

A self-described "classy dude," Boyd's version of what happened during the early hours of that September morning is more nuanced than the facts that appeared in the police report.

Boyd said he was on his way to the Clybourne, a campus bar located on Sixth Street between Green and John streets, with a couple of friends when he saw a woman he knew. When he and his friends said hello, the victim was offended they didn't address him too.

"I could tell he was drunk," Boyd said. "He said, 'Where I'm from, we don't acknowledge the female without acknowledging the male who she's with.'"

At that point, Boyd's friends and the man began arguing. Things quickly became violent, but Boyd said he never touched the man.

Instead, he said he crossed the street and continued walking to the Clybourne. It's at that point that the police showed up. All of his friends scattered, but Boyd stayed on the corner of Sixth and Green streets, where he was picked up by an officer.

Boyd said he told the officer he had not hit the man and Boyd even asked the victim if he had actually touched him. Although the man said he couldn't remember Boyd hitting him, Boyd was arrested and charged with mob action and aggravated battery.

Boyd spent the next 47 days in jail awaiting his court date. His bail was set at $20,000.

"The system, they don't play with the mob actions, the aggravated batteries, especially if it's students," Boyd said. "If it wasn't a student, it probably wouldn't have been that serious."

Initially, Boyd claimed to have no priors. According to records from the circuit clerk of Champaign County, though, Boyd pleaded guilty last January to one count of intended theft of property with a value less than $300, a Class A misdemeanor.

Boyd pleaded guilty to the charges this time around, too, taking the advice of his public defender, Scott Schmidt, and received two years probation from Judge Thomas Difanis.

Schmidt could not be reached for comment despite multiple attempts.

Boyd said he decided to plead guilty for two reasons. One reason was the testimony of eyewitnesses the police collected from the night of the incident. Boyd said instead of talking to the woman accompanying the victim, the police questioned bystanders on Green Street.

"They questioned six other Caucasian people," Boyd said. "They tried to make it look like a racial thing."

According to the report, police did question the woman accompanying the victim that night, and in her statement to the police, she said she knew Boyd but that he was not a part of the altercation. Police informed her about obstructing justice, and she still contested that she did not see Boyd.

The more important reason to enter a guilty plea, though, Boyd said, was that his family needed him.

Boyd has two younger siblings: a 12-year-old brother, Dajon, and his baby sister, Savannah, who turns two this year. Boyd said his mother, Angel Brownlee, is currently at home taking care of Savannah. His father passed away when Boyd was two, so he said he needed to get out of jail as soon as possible.

"When I was out, I always helped support the household," Boyd said. "I'm like the father, you know."

So when his mother visited him in jail and told Boyd they needed him at home, Boyd listened. He took the probation, in addition to the 47 days served.

Ask Boyd whether he thinks the system gave him a fair shake, and he will slowly respond that the police treated him like he was guilty from the start. But he said the experience did not leave him angry with the justice system, just his friends.

"I call them associates now," Boyd said. "They just let me go in there, and they couldn't get me out. If they could have got me out, I probably could have beaten the trial."

Boyd calls the friends he was with that night his "party friends," none of whom he will identify. He graduated from Urbana High School this past spring, and his classmates say he was a popular kid.

Cristina Glass, a close friend who is not among his “party friends," said she met Boyd when he moved to Urbana in 2002. Born in Pasadena, Calif., Boyd came to Urbana when he was in eighth grade because his mother wanted to be closer to her grandmother who had suffered a stroke.

"He was a really quiet, shy little boy," Glass said. "When he got to junior and senior year (of high school), he started opening up, becoming more of himself; maturing, I guess."

Glass described the friends Boyd was with on that September night as the "popular kids."

"The people he hung out with were popular," Glass said. "Everybody knew them, and he lost himself in that and wanted to be that."

Juan Valdez, Boyd's cousin and a senior at Urbana High School, echoed Boyd's feelings about his friends that night.

"He was kind of upset that the people he was with didn't come forward and do their job, getting him out early for something he didn't do," Valdez said.

Now, Boyd said he is trying to put the event behind him and move on with his life. Boyd was let go from his job at Tatman's Towing shortly before Sept. 12. Boyd said his boss, whom he nicknamed "Mr. Krabs," fired him for talking on his cell phone during work. When asked to comment, an employee at Tatman's Towing said that was essentially the reason, although they said they would not speak further on the matter.

Boyd said his main priority is finding employment, but he said his record is making the job hunt that much more challenging. He was still searching as of November and could not be reached since. Ideally, Boyd wanted to go back to school where he would study accounting.

"I love accounting," Boyd said. "Plus, I love math. I was always a math guy."

Boyd said that after he gets a job he is going to start saving money.

He also said he wanted to leave Urbana, at least for a while. His home state of California is one possible destination. With family out there, he said he had some job possibilities and has set his aims on California State University.

But the most appealing thing about California is getting away from all the newfound "fame."

Look up Miquan Boyd using a Google search and the first two hits link to a story about his arrest.

None of them describes the person his friends and family say they know. Instead, they describe a person who is part of a frightening crime wave.