Ex-Bulldog basketball star speaks about drug charges

FRESNO, Calif.

Once a rising basketball star, O'Neil's life is now on hold. The four-year player at Fresno State has transitioned from the hardwood court to Fresno County criminal court, where he's fighting drug charges.

"He was taken into custody for possession of cocaine for sale, marijuana for sale," said Fresno police officer James Barnum, who arrested O'Neil in April 2010.

After watching O'Neil's Central Fresno home for a few weeks in 2010, police determined the former point guard had been dishing out drugs. Police found about nine grams of cocaine and a quarter-pound of marijuana when they served a warrant at the house. They arrested O'Neil and searched him.

"Did you find anything on him that would be consistent with sales of controlled substances?" asked prosecutor Lindsey Bittner.

"A large amount of cash," said Officer Barnum.

Do you recall how much?" Bittner asked.

"It was over $2700," the officer replied.

O'Neil never talked about the case publicly until an interview with Action News on Friday. He doesn't deny the drugs were in the house, and the house was his responsibility. But he says the cocaine wasn't his. Police found it in a duffle bag without any identification and O'Neil said a relative left the bag at his house. He said police ignored any evidence of his innocence.

"They just disregarded all the rest of the stuff that was in the house -- my cousin's card that was posted, his recommendation for his marijuana, and the plants in the back," he said. "I feel like they didn't do their job and that's why I'm sitting here. That's why I'm fighting for my degree and my children."

O'Neil said he did have a lot of money but only because he had just sold a car. He wanted to pay off a child support debt so he could leave the country to play basketball.

After two years in criminal courts, his pro basketball dreams are a thing of the past. O'Neil now wants to be a teacher, so he's willing to take a deal from prosecutors that'd let him pursue that career.

"I would take a possession on the pot for the simple fact that that's nothing," he said.

Judge D. Tyler Tharpe said the evidence he saw may not be enough to convict O'Neil. But he ruled Friday there's enough evidence for O'Neil to stand trial, leaving even his diminished dreams in question.

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