Lowndes High School linebacker Brian Bell
Florida State has withdrawn a scholarship offer to Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes High School linebackerBrian Bell, who was named in a wrongful death civil suit involving a classmate who was found dead in the school in 2013.
Bell, who committed to the Seminoles after receiving a scholarship offer in January 2014, won’t sign with another school on Wednesday, according to his attorney, Brice Ladson of Savannah, Georgia.
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“Certainly, we hope he will sign with someone before the process is over,” Ladson said. “There is no one else that we can speak of at this time.”
Last month, the parents of Kendrick Johnson filed a $100 million lawsuit against 38 defendants, including Bell, his brother and their father, Richard Bell, an FBI agent. Johnson, 17, was found dead inside a rolled-up gym mat in the Lowndes County High gym on Jan. 10, 2013.
Brian Bell and his brother have not been charged with a crime.
The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office ruled Johnson’s death a freak accident, saying he fell into the upright mat while trying to retrieve a tennis shoe and suffocated. An autopsy conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation confirmed the sheriff’s department’s cause of death.
Over the past two years, Johnson’s parents and their attorney, Benjamin Crump of Tallahassee, Florida, have alleged that he was murdered. They had Johnson’s body exhumed to conduct an independent autopsy, and a private pathologist concluded that he died of blunt force trauma to the neck. The pathologist also discovered that Johnson’s organs had been removed and his body was stuffed with newspapers.
The civil suit alleges that after Richard Bell encouraged his sons to attack Johnson, a female classmate lured him into the gym, where the two brothers fatally beat him and placed his body in the gym mat.
The civil suit, filed in DeKalb County (Ga.) Superior Court on Jan. 12 on behalf of Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson, also accused several officials from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Valdosta Police Department, Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department and Lowndes County School District of conspiring to cover up Kendrick Johnson’s murder.
U.S. Attorney Michael Moore opened a federal investigation into the case, which remains open more than a year later.
“The absurdity of this situation is just hard to overstate,” Ladson said. “This young man did nothing. There is no possibility he had anything to do with the tragic death of this young man. Yet, [the Johnson] family has not accepted that and believes someone killed him. They decided to pick on this young man. It’s just a real tragedy — all the way around.”