January 20, 2012 at 12:56 PM CST - Updated June 26 at 8:22 AM
By JANET McCONNAUGHEY Associated Press
An Alabama man is free from jail on a $10,000 bond after being arrested late Wednesday in connection with a video appearing to show him abusing an unconscious Louisiana State University fan after Alabama beat LSU for the BCS football championship.
The District Attorney's office said Friday it would discuss the case with officers and relevant witnesses, but said heavy media coverage would not affect the case. "This case will be treated no differently that others," the D.A.'s office said in a statement, adding that the office, "remains focused on the prosecution of murders and other crimes of violence."
Brian Downing, 32, of Smiths Station, Ala., was booked on charges of sexual battery and obscenity. He was videotaped Jan. 9 "placing his genitals on an LSU fan's face. The LSU fan appears to be heavily inebriated and practically unconscious," a police statement said.
That videotape, the last minute of which shows a man in a red Alabama jacket simulating a sex act, went viral on the Internet.
Police said sex crimes detectives met Downing at his attorney's office in New Orleans, where officers arrested him. Downing looked at the ground as officers escorted him in handcuffs into the jail. Neither he nor the officers answered questions.
Downing's actions were videotaped about 11:45 p.m. Jan. 9, at a restaurant on Bourbon Street, police said.
They said LSU and Alabama University campus police helped them collect information and evidence needed to get a warrant for Downing's arrest.
Downing is a second cousin of Russell County, Ala., Sheriff Heath Taylor, who earlier Thursday had said Downing was on his way from Alabama to New Orleans to surrender.
Taylor told The Associated Press that he learned from other family members Thursday morning that Downing had been identified as the man shown exposing himself and then simulating a sex act above the head of an apparently unconscious man in an LSU-purple shirt. Taylor said he had not seen the video or asked Downing about the case.
After hearing from his relatives, Taylor said, he called Downing's dad and told him to bring him to the sheriff's office in Phenix City, Ala. He said he then called New Orleans police to ask whether they wanted him to jail and extradite Downing or send him to New Orleans to surrender. "New Orleans made that call," he said.
Taylor said he did not speak to Downing. "I gave his attorney the card with the detective's name on it and cell number."
The relationship was first reported by the Ledger-Enquirer of Columbus, Ga., which is about nine miles east-northeast from Phenix City.
Scott Myers, a spokesman for Birmingham, Ala.-based Hibbett Sports Inc., confirmed Thursday that the company fired Downing on Wednesday because of his part in the video.
He said the company had been aware of the tape but did not identify the person on it until Wednesday. He refused to say what the man did for Hibbett or how the company became aware of his alleged involvement. Hibbett Sports lists about 800 stores in 26 states.
"We were made aware of this situation late yesterday afternoon. We conducted our own investigation, and after the investigation was concluded, we made the determination to terminate his employment," Myers said.
Taylor said that when he heard the allegation, he had no choice but to arrest Downing or send him to New Orleans. "I wasn't going to let anybody say that because he's my family I wasn't doing anything about it."
It wasn't a hard decision, he said. "You've just got to do the right thing."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. WSFA 12 News contributed. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.