Former Immokalee High School and University of Florida football standout Jerald “J.C.” Jackson was found not guilty of four felonies Friday, charges that led to his departure from the Gators earlier this year.
Jurors in Gainesville deliberated for about two hours before acquitting Jackson, a 2014 graduate, on three counts of home invasion robbery and one count of burglary. Jackson faced up to life in prison if convicted on all counts.
Gainesville police and prosecutors accused the 19-year-old of helping to carry out a robbery of three men at an apartment in April. The victims said Jackson entered the apartment, left, returned with two other men, then left just before the holdup. About $375 cash and two video game systems were taken at gunpoint.
But Christopher Brown, Jackson’s lawyer, argued that Jackson left the robbery scene with no knowledge that a robbery was about to occur. Jackson didn’t testify in his defense.
“It surely shows a bad choice in company and that he wasn’t using his head, but he didn’t have a weapon and there was no evidence he ever obtained any stolen goods,” Brown said. “It looks bad, but this isn’t proof that he was part of a plan and assisted in the robbery.”
Following the verdict, Jackson’s father, Chris, said the case had weighed on the family. Jackson transferred to Riverside City College in California this summer after University of Florida officials said they wouldn’t renew his scholarship, his father said.
“It’s been very stressful because, from the jump, he didn’t have nothing to do with it,” Chris Jackson said in a telephone interview. “He knows he’s supposed to be out there playing, starting, and he just misses it. But this isn’t the end of the road for him.”
Chris Jackson said his son declined to comment about the verdict Friday.
A four-star recruit and winner of the Naples Daily News’ Broxson Award given annually to the most outstanding high school football player in Collier and southern Lee counties, Jackson joined the Gators in the fall of 2014. He played as a freshman before tearing the labrum in his right shoulder during the Gators’ second game, receiving a medical redshirt.
With the acquittal and three years of eligibility remaining, Jackson will likely receive attention once again from major college programs. His father said Auburn’s defensive backs coach, who recruited Jackson at the University of Florida, called Friday as the family left the courthouse.
Chris Jackson said he’s unsure where his son will land, adding the Gators haven’t been in contact with him in recent months
“We’re going to see. We’re just going to let it play out right now,” Chris Jackson said.
Jackson’s arrest was his third run-in with police in a five-month stretch.
On Christmas Eve 2014, Jackson was in a vehicle in Immokalee with two friends when a driver pulled up beside them and opened fire. A bullet grazed Jackson above the eye, and the two other passengers were both struck in the head, suffering nonfatal injuries.
Five days before the shooting, Jackson was a passenger in a vehicle containing two small bags of marijuana, which were discovered by police during a traffic stop. Jackson wasn’t arrested or cited.
“He has a dad and a mom and a loving family, and he’s a nice kid, but sometimes he doesn’t have the greatest judgment in where he goes and who he hangs out with,” Brown said. “This was very shocking for him. I think he realized this was possibly the end of football, and possibly his life.”