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Former Lobo sentenced on abuse charges

Lawyer blames violence on medication

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M - Former University of New Mexico basketball player Malcolm Battles pleaded no contest Tuesday to two charges stemming from his December arrest on domestic-abuse allegations. He was sentenced to probation.

Battles entered his pleas in Bernalillo County district court before Judge Pat Murdoch. The charges - false imprisonment, a fourth-degree felony, and interference with communication, a misdemeanor - arose from a Dec. 18 dispute with his girlfriend Tannase Johnson, 18.

"I let a lot of people down, and I let myself down," said Battles, who was dressed in a green, short-sleeved tailored shirt, black pants and black canvas shoes.

"I want to apologize, and I want to promise that if you let me further my career in basketball I won't let you down again," the 6-foot, 7-inch former Lobo forward told the court.

Murdoch sentenced Battles to 18 months of supervised probation, including domestic and anger management counseling. The judge also ordered Battles not to drink alcohol, use any drugs - other than prescribed medication - or contact Johnson during his period of probation.

"The entire world would be a better place if all us were slower to anger and quicker to care," Murdoch told Battles.

Murdoch also granted Battles a conditional discharge, a request made by Battles' attorney, Rudy Chavez. A conditional discharge would remove the felony conviction from Battles' record if he successfully completes his probation.

Chavez told Murdoch that Battles was pursuing the possibility of playing with one of the European basketball leagues.

Assistant District Attorney Henry Alaniz did not ask Murdoch to impose jail time on Battles' sentence. False imprisonment carries a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison.

The Lobos dropped Battles soon after his arrest.

Murdoch said that while he recognized Battles' career and reputation had been tarnished by the charges, Battles was ultimately responsible for his actions.

"Mr. Battles, I blame you for what happened," Murdoch said. "If a relationship is not working, walk away. Life is about control - keeping your control."

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Before sentencing, Chavez told Murdoch that the charges had adversely affected his client's life.

"Mr. Battles has lost everything," Chavez said. "He has no scholarship, no money, no car, no job. He lost his father in high school. His mother is terminally ill."

After the hearing, Chavez said several years ago Battles had been injured an auto accident and had since suffered gran mal seizures - a type of epilepsy. Chavez said the seizures, and the prescribed medication for them, contributed to Battles' emotional volatility.

KOB-TV reported that while the former basketball player never blamed anyone for what happened when he and his former girlfriend got into a fight, Chavez said Malcolm Battles was out of control because of negligence by UNM's Sports Medicine Department. The local television station reported that Battles was already suffering from ulcers and high blood pressure and Chavez said Battles was prescribed medication that only made his problems worse.

The station quoted Chavez as saying that he and his client have put the University on notice, informing that Battles may sue UNM for medical negligence.

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