MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood will face a felony charge for allegedly intimidating a witness in an ongoing murder case when he’s extradited to his home state, a spokesperson at the Delaware state attorney general’s office told the Charleston Daily Mail on Tuesday.
Smallwood, 20, was arrested by the WVU Police Department on Monday as a fugitive from justice. Smallwood was wanted in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, where he’ll be charged with an act of intimidation, a class G felony punishable by up to two years in prison.
Wilmington’s News Journal reported Monday night that Smallwood made repeated attempts to have a witness to a 2012 murder recant a statement that implicated Smallwood’s friend, who is charged with first-degree murder.
Smallwood was still being held in the North Central Regional Jail in Doddridge County on Tuesday evening without bail. Delaware’s attorney general’s office said it is against its policy not to reveal details of a prisoner’s extradition and could offer no more details on Smallwood’s case because it is still active.
According to WVU police chief Bob Roberts, representatives from the Wilmington Police Department and the Delaware attorney general’s office arrived in Morgantown on Monday and told WVU police they needed to speak to Smallwood. The WVU football office assisted in contacting Smallwood and the 5-foot-11, 200-pound sophomore agreed to meet with the law enforcement officials.
Roberts said they interviewed Smallwood and then made the arrest. Smallwood signed extradition papers so that he could be returned to Delaware and formally charged. He faces the lesser of two possible felony charges for intimidating a witness. An aggressive act of intimidation is a more severe felony with a longer prison sentence.
A Wilmington Police Department spokesperson told the News Journal that Smallwood “called to try to get a witness to come and make a false statement to police recanting previous statements.” The alleged calls happened in March and May of 2013. Smallwood enrolled at WVU in January 2013.
WVU coach Dana Holgorsen told the Daily Mail on Monday he was aware of the arrest and monitoring the situation.
“We are looking into the matter and will take action at the appropriate time,” he said.
Witness intimidation has grown to be a significant problem in Delaware and complicated matters for authorities trying to prosecute and convict. Delaware lawmakers passed a bill in May that strengthened penalties for witness intimidation. The law reclassifies an “act of Intimidation” as a Class D felony and a penalty of up to eight years in prison, and an “Aggravated Act of Intimidation” as a Class B felony and a penalty of two to 25 years in prison.
Smallwood cannot be charged, tried or punished under the new law because the alleged offenses happened before it was passed, the state attorney general’s spokesperson said.
Smallwood was groomed throughout his freshman season as the successor to Charles Sims and his versatile role in the Mountaineers offense. He carried 39 times for 221 yards and a touchdown and caught 11 passes for 132 yards and also led the team with 30 kickoff returns for 529 yards.
After spring football, where Smallwood consistently earned rave reviews and was once said to be the team’s best inside receiver, he was listed as the second running back on a crowded depth chart and as a kickoff returner.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.