Judge: Ball's attackers "lucky" to get diversion program - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Judge: Ball's attackers "lucky" to get first offender's program

MADISON (WKOW) -- A Dane County judge told two UW-Madison students who attacked Badger football star Montee Ball they were "lucky" to be able to participate in a first offender's program, with a chance of dismissal of felony charges.

"You injured Mr. Ball, physically, emotionally," Judge Rebecca St. John said Wednesday to 21-year old Robert Wilks and 21-year Wendell Venerable, after both men pleaded guilty to felony party to a substantial battery in the attack on Ball.

St. John accepted a recommendation from the prosecutor the men be placed in the first offender's program, and imposition of a sentence was withheld, with the charges to be dismissed if the men successfully completed the program. First offender's program can involve counseling, alcohol and other drug treatment, community service and other requirements.

Wilk, Venerable and other people attacked an unsuspecting Ball at bar time on University Avenue August 1. Authorities say the attack was retaliation for a previous fight involving Venerable and other football players.

Ball's father, Montee Ball, Sr., spoke to the court, and called what happened to his son "devastating." Ball said receiving the call about his the attack on his son was more traumatic than notifications he had received over the deaths of his parents.

Ball said his family's hope was the first offender's program would provide help to the attackers to correct their behavior.

"We're not angry. We were, not anymore," Ball told the court.

When asked by St. John whether criminal documents accurately described what happened in the attack on Ball, Venerable said, "Not all of it," but later agreed he was part of a group in which people hit Ball and then kicked him.

Ball suffered a concussion and other injuries, and missed practice time.

"You are lucky you did not injure him more seriously," St. John told Wilks and Venerable.

The prosecutor said Ball originally intended to make a statement in court, but Ball did not attend the hearing, and his father served as a family spokesperson.

Another man charged in the attack, UW-Madison student Deonte Wilson, has a plea hearing scheduled next month. Authorities say a fourth suspect has been identified, but not arrested.

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