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Monday, November 19 News

Football players to get accelerated rehabilitation

NORWALK — A Snapchat-fueled feud that left two Darien High School football players benched for the Turkey Bowl in November has been quietly resolved.

Brian Minicus and Jack Joyce, both 18, were accepted into accelerated rehabilitation programs where their charges will be dropped if they complete volunteer work within the next month.

According to court documents, Minicus, who played wide receiver and defensive back for Darien last season, was charged with third-degree assault and second-degree unlawful restraint after he allegedly went to a New Canaan home on Nov. 6 and repeatedly punched a New Canaan boy in the head while other Darien teenagers held the boy down.

Joyce, his team’s starting quarterback for this past football season, was charged with disorderly conduct and interfering with an officer after he allegedly went to the home and yelled at another teenager and then lied to police about his involvement in the incident.

In court on Feb. 7, Presiding Judge Alex Hernandez warned both teenagers that going forward, they need to keep their cool when in a group of guys, because when “a group of guys are together, IQs drop.”

“You’re going to want to walk away and be aware of your surroundings,” Hernandez said to Minicus while granting his application for AR. “I hope you end up in college. I hope you end up in a college sports program. But they’re not giving out trophies for the most punches thrown off the football field.”

Both attorneys for the high school seniors emphasized their prior upstanding behavior and the remorse they feel for the fight, which allegedly left the victim with bruising, cuts and a swollen knee.

Attorney Stephan Seeger, representing Minicus, said his client has experienced the consequences of his actions, including facing issues at school, missing out on the remainder of his last high school football season and his college acceptance pending on the outcome of the case. Seeger said his client told him he’s learned from the experience and didn’t realize the court proceedings would play out this long.

Seeger said Minicus has plans for his future, including building houses in Africa, and already has arrangements to volunteer at a local organization in Darien. Seeger said Minicus’ parents are also taking the situation seriously and even attempted to apologize to the family of the victim.

“I think there’s indication there’s responsibility taken here,” Seeger said. “This young man wants to put this behind him.”

Minicus also took the opportunity to speak in court and apologize to the victim as well.

“I want to apologize to the victim, my family, especially my mom and dad, and all of Darien,” Minicus said with his parents present in the courtroom. “I feel like I let them down. ... I learned a lot in these three months. They’ve been the worst.”

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The victim was not at the hearing, but appeared in court on Jan. 17 to read a statement about the night of the assault and his thoughts on Minicus, who also appeared in court that day, being accepted into the program. While the victim expressed initial hesitation to Minicus’ acceptance, the court gave him time and he eventually agreed to the application being granted.

“The court was right when it decided to give the victim more time to think,” Seeger said after his client’s appearance. “We were able to speak to the victim’s counsel and from the victim’s side, there was no protest to AR. The court did note it was a serious case, but in this particular instance, there were some lessons learned to say the least. I believe the court made the right decision to grant my client AR.”

Joyce’s attorney, John Thygerson, said his client is active in the community as a volunteer at St. Thomas Moore Church in Darien and a lifeguard at the Wee Burn Country Club. He also has kept a 3.67 grade-point average while playing football and lacrosse.

“His grades reflect nothing but dedication to academics,” Thygerson said.

The attorney added Joyce had met his goal of getting accepted to the University of Pennsylvania early, but his arrest derailed that and has caused him extreme distress. Thygerson said Joyce’s younger sisters have been taunted because of his legal troubles and Joyce has been the target of mockery from other teams, particularly in Greenwich, where someone tried to show up to a game wearing a prison suit with “Joyce” written on the back. Thygerson added the media coverage has also been particularly damaging, claiming searching “Jack Joyce Darien” yields five pages of results related to the fight.

“He has done nothing but dedicate his life toward propelling himself forward,” Thygerson said. “To call this a life lesson ... lesson learned.”

Joyce, accompanied by his mother for emotional support, declined to give a statement.

Both boys were granted into accelerated rehabilitation programs which will cause their charges to be dropped pending the completion of community service by the end of the month. Minicus was assigned 40 hours of community service and Joyce was given 36 hours. The deadline for the programs were moved up so both students could have the charges dropped before college admission decisions are made. Neither student could apply to college while their case was pending in court, according to Seeger.

If arrested again this month while in the AR program, Joyce and Minicus would have the charges reinstated on their record. Both were also barred from having contact with the victim.

ekayata@hearstmediact.com; @erin_kayata

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