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2 ex-gridders at Y. close to plea deal

Attorneys for Marcus Whalen and Breyon Jones — two former Brigham Young University football players charged with robbing and assaulting a friend in April — are negotiating a plea deal with Utah County prosecutors.

Rhome Zabriskie, Whalen's attorney, would not elaborate on the deal but said the matter should be resolved before Nov. 3, the next scheduled court date for the players.

Whalen, Jones and their attorneys met with Utah County prosecutors for 2 1/2 hours Wednesday at Provo's 4th District Court, trying to hammer out a deal. Once a tentative agreement had been reached, both Whalen and Jones agreed to waive their rights to a preliminary hearing that had been scheduled for Wednesday.

Both the prosecution and the defense said they are pleased with the developing plea-bargain. They will spend the next few weeks reviewing evidence, Zabriskie said.

"We don't intend to plead straight up to the charges; we never have," Zabriskie said. "We feel good about the direction this is going."

The man Whalen and Jones have been accused of assaulting, Yussufu Nsabimana, traveled from Wisconsin to testify at Wednesday's hearing if necessary. Nsabimana said the fight was over $25 Whalen and Jones owed him.

"All I want is justice," he said. "They know what they did."

Nsabimana said he appreciates the way the Utah County Attorney's Office has conducted the case, but Whalen said he is frustrated with how long the court proceedings have taken. Whalen had hoped the matter would be resolved in time for him to play football.

In 2002 he led BYU in rushing with 918 yards. In January he was suspended from school, stemming from an incident at an off-campus party. His college eligibility expires at the end of the 2004 season.

"It's just gone on and on," he said. "I'm trying to get past this and move on with my life."

Whalen hopes to play professional football in Canada next year. For now he is a married father of a 2-year-old son, with another on the way.

Jones, who was suspended from BYU until 2005, is enrolled at Utah Valley State College and hopes to play football next year.