URBANA — One of three former University of Illinois football players charged last year with robbing a fellow residence hall student has been given a chance to escape a criminal record.

Zarrian Holcombe, 20, who was a freshman from Houston, Texas, in 2017, pleaded guilty Tuesday before Judge Tom Difanis to theft from person.

As a result of a plea agreement negotiated by Holcombe’s attorney, Mike Zopf, and Assistant State’s Attorney Troy Lozar, Holcombe was sentenced to two years of second chance probation.

Under the provisions of that statute, Holcombe is convicted of the Class 3 felony but if he successfully completes the terms of his probation and does not commit any further crimes, then no judgment will be entered against him.

Such pleas are common in cases where the defendant is young and has no prior criminal convictions.

Holcombe admitted that on May 10, 2017, he joined with co-defendants Darta Lee and Howard Watkins, both 19, to steal less than $500 from a man who was living in Bromley Hall at 910 S. Third St. Holcombe, Lee and Watkins also lived there.

The resident reported that three masked men entered his room about 3:20 a.m. that Wednesday. One pulled what was believed to be a fake gun and demanded cash. The victim recognized the voice of one of the men, which eventually led Champaign police to all three.

They were initially charged with residential burglary and aggravated robbery. Holcombe spent 41 days in jail before someone posted bond for him in June. In January, Lozar filed another lesser count of criminal trespass to residence against Holcombe.

Those three charges were all dismissed and he pleaded guilty to the theft charge Lozar filed a week ago.

As part of his sentence, Holcombe will also have to perform 30 hours of public service and have no contact with the victim.

He, Watkins and Lee were all dismissed from the football team by Coach Lovie Smith in the wake of their criminal charges.

Zopf said Holcombe is now playing football on a scholarship at Prairie View A&M, in Prairie View, Texas.

Watkins’ criminal case is back in court April 17 while Lee’s is scheduled for May 8.

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