Former WSU defensive lineman Robert Barber charged with felony assault
Former Washington State football player Robert Barber, whose summertime melee and subsequent expulsion led to calls for the university to review its student conduct policy, now faces a felony assault charge.
The former defensive lineman was charged Thursday with second-degree assault and faces first appearance on March 17. The charging decision comes seven months after the fight from which the charge originated.
Deputy Whitman County Prosecutor Dan LeBeau said he didn’t receive the case file until October and it included more witness interviews than any case he’d ever handled in his career.
“To get through this volume of information, it took just clearing my desk,” he said. “But I always had other cases and other trials that got in the way.”
Barber, who has already graduated from WSU, was charged in connection with a July 23 fight that was captured on cell-phone video, which shows him punching another student from behind. Witnesses claimed that Barber then hit the man a second time after he was down, causing a concussion.
Barber and Toso “T.J.” Fehoko were arrested on Sept. 16 on the charges of second degree assault stemming from a the fight in which another man suffered a broken jaw. But LeBeau declined to charge Fehoko, who is no longer on the WSU football team.
“I just didn’t have enough evidence to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt,” LeBeau said regarding the investigation into Fehoko.
After both players were arrested, the WSU Student Conduct Board on Sept. 13 expelled Barber for his role in the fight. That expulsion sparked a legal fight of its own, with fans and and state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, pushing to reform the Student Conduct Code process.
Baumgartner lobbied in defense of Barber and asked WSU administrators to intervene: “If the university doesn’t want to fix it, we’ll fix it for them in the Legislature,” he said on Oct. 31.
The case got even more complicated when Whitman County Superior Court Judge David Frazier sided with Barber’s attorney and shelved Barber’s suspension, allowing him to play the last two regular season games and the bowl loss to Minnesota. Barber also graduated in December.
Frazier’s ruling centered on the fact that WSU’s student conduct board destroyed evidence of questions submitted by Barber and for paraphrasing those questions.
WSU President Kirk Schulz then hired an outside legal firm to review the conduct board process. University spokesman Rob Strenge said that report is due as early as next week.
“That report will passed on to the internal task force that is reviewing the student conduct board,” Strenge said. “They will take that into their account for their deliberations.”