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Spurrier defends Brown for arrest over summer in charge that was dropped

South Carolina senior wide receiver No. 9 Moe Brown reaches for a touchdown after a 40-yard reception in front of S.C. State cornerback No. 22 Razzie Smith during the third quarter.
South Carolina senior wide receiver No. 9 Moe Brown reaches for a touchdown after a 40-yard reception in front of S.C. State cornerback No. 22 Razzie Smith during the third quarter.

USC senior receiver and team captain Moe Brown was arrested on a gun charge after being stopped for speeding near campus in June, but his attorney said the charge was dropped a month later.

Brown, who played his final USC game Saturday in a 20-7 loss to Connecticut in the Papajohns.com Bowl, was pulled over by Columbia police for doing 70 mph in a 35-mph zone on Blossom Street.

An officer found a black pistol under the front passenger's seat, according to a copy of the incident report obtained by The State.

The gun was registered to the 21-year-old Brown, who, in a statement released through his attorney Lowell Bernstein, said he voluntarily told police he had a gun in his vehicle.

"I was 21 years of age and the legal and registered owner of the pistol. However, I had the gun under my seat and since it was not in the glove box at that time, I was charged with unlawful carrying," Brown said in the statement.

"After a court hearing approximately one month later, the misdemeanor charge was dismissed and the matter was closed in my mind. This incident occurred during the summer break and it was a private matter for my family and me."

Under S.C. law, it is illegal to carry a gun under a car seat, although it is legal to carry one in a glove compartment, console or trunk.

Police stopped Brown in the 400 block of Blossom Street, near the university's Greek village, around 10:30 a.m. on June 1, according to the report. He was also charged with driving without proof of insurance and spent a few hours at the Richland County jail, according to Bernstein.

Bernstein said a municipal court judge dismissed the gun charge during a preliminary hearing on the grounds that the search of Brown's 2002 Chevy sedan was illegal. Bernstein said Brown received credit for time served on the speeding charge, and thought the no-insurance charge was to be expunged.

USC coach Steve Spurrier said he knew about the incident shortly after it occurred.

Spurrier said when coaches asked Brown about the gun, he said he needed it because he lived in an off-campus apartment in "a rough part of town." Bernstein said Brown lives in a Lexington County apartment complex.

Spurrier said Brown, who was voted one of four team captains last spring, was not subject to any disciplinary measures because the incident happened off campus and the gun charge was dropped.

"With what a wonderful, young man he is, we just didn't think too much about it at that time," Spurrier said. "If that's against the university's rules to live off campus and possess a weapon, then he was in the wrong. I don't know if that's a university rule or not."

Attempts to reach Brown for additional comment were unsuccessful.

Former USC player Emanuel Cook was arrested and suspended from the university in August 2007 for allegedly handling a gun on campus. After Cook was reinstated, Spurrier said coaches and players had learned a lesson.

"I think our players all know now, they should know, if you see a pistol you need to go the other direction as fast as you can," Spurrier said at the time. "Don't touch it. That's a no-no. It's a good rule and hopefully we all learn from what happened last week."

Spurrier said Brown's situation was "totally different" because of where it occurred.

"There's no guns on campus," Spurrier said. "(Brown) wasn't on campus. It was in his car."

Brown has served as an unofficial ambassador for USC. He spoke at a groundbreaking ceremony for the Dodie Anderson academic center and was a regular at the team's press conferences.

Bernstein said Brown has a 3.2 grade point average and is no longer a gun owner.

"I don't think he's the kind of kid who's a trouble-maker or gets in trouble," Bernstein said. "Everything I know about him - his grades, his community service - he's a wonderful young fellow and I think he has a good future. He's not a guy that breaks laws intentionally."

Spurrier called Brown a model citizen and student-athlete.

"We're proud of Moe Brown," Spurrier said. "He's had a good career here."

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