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Top draft prospect Jalen Carter booked and released for reckless driving, racing in connection with fatal crash

University of Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter was booked Wednesday night and subsequently released on reckless driving and racing charges, according to the Athens-Clarke County Police Department website.

Carter, one of the top prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft, was the subject of arrest warrants in Athens, Georgia, as a result of an ongoing investigation into a fatal crash on Jan. 15, the Athens-Clarke PD said on Wednesday. Both charges are misdemeanors.

Carter, 21, was booked at 11:33 p.m. ET and released at 11:49 p.m. after paying a $4,000 bond for the two charges. 

Police say their investigation found that Carter and Chandler LeCroy, a Georgia recruiting analyst, were each operating vehicles in the manner consistent with racing after leaving downtown Athens at around 2:30 a.m. ET, with evidence demonstrating that their cars were switching lanes, driving in the center turn lane and in opposite lanes of travel, overtaking other motorists, and driving at high rates of speed.

At 2:45 a.m. ET, the 2021 Ford Expedition that LeCroy was driving left the roadway, striking two power poles and several trees, police said.

LeCroy, 24, and Georgia offensive lineman Devin Willock, 20, both died as a result of the crash. Others in LeCroy's car, including Georgia offensive lineman Warren McClendon, were injured.

Police said in a Wednesday press release that LeCroy's vehicle was traveling at approximately 104 mph shortly before the crash. A toxicology report said that LeCroy's blood alcohol concentration was .197 at the time of the incident.

Investigators determined that alcohol impairment, racing, reckless driving, and speed were significant contributing factors to the crash.

Carter released a statement on Wednesday before turning himself in, saying that he intended to return to Athens "to answer the misdemeanor charges against me and to make certain that the complete and accurate truth is presented."

"This morning I received a telephone call from the Athens Georgia Police Department informing me that two misdemeanor warrants have been issued against me for reckless driving and racing," Carter said. "Numerous media reports also have circulated this morning concerning the tragic events of Jan. 15, 2023."

Carter continued: "There is no question in my mind that when all of the facts are known that I will be fully exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing."

Carter, who declared for the NFL draft on Jan. 10, was not present for his scheduled news conference on Wednesday morning at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. NFL senior vice president of football and international communications Michael Signora told media assembled at Carter's assigned podium that Carter would not be speaking at the event on Wednesday.

The news of the arrest warrants secured for Carter came hours after a report published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday that Carter was present at the scene of the crash, left the scene before officers arrived and then gave "shifting accounts of the wreck as an Athens police officer questioned him about whether he had been racing the car that crashed."

"The charges announced today are deeply concerning," University of Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said in a statement on Wednesday, "especially as we are still struggling to cope with the devastating loss of two beloved members of our community.

"We will continue to cooperate fully with the authorities while supporting these families and assessing what we can learn from this horrible tragedy."

Carter was also cited by the Athens-Clark PD on Sept. 22, 2022, for speeding when he was clocked at 89 mph in a 45 mph zone.

A first-team All-American and All-SEC player for the Bulldogs in 2022, Carter played in 13 games with nine starts as a junior for the eventual national champions. He currently is the No. 1 player on NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah's list of this year's top 50 prospects.

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