A former USC tight end and a former Louisiana State University player, both of whom were kicked off their college football teams for misconduct, are suspected of staging a two-day string of robberies, including a carjacking, across Los Angeles and Ventura counties, police said Thursday.
Bryce Dixon, a 19-year-old USC student, and Trey Lealaimatafao, 19, are suspected of committing at least nine robberies, and were arrested Tuesday near USC.
For the crimes that allegedly occurred in Los Angeles, both men were charged Thursday with five counts of second-degree robbery, and one count each of carjacking, attempted carjacking and assault with a deadly weapon, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.
Appearing at a downtown L.A. courtroom, both men pleaded not guilty. Dixon was ordered to be on $420,000 bail.
An attorney for Dixon said prosecutors rushed to file the charges and ultimately have a weak case against his client.
"When all the evidence and facts come out, he's going to be vindicated," Joshua Ritter told The Times. "He adamantly denies it and says he was not involved in any way."
Authorities in Ventura County are investigating an additional four robberies that took place on Monday and Tuesday: one in Oxnard, one in Ventura, and two in areas patrolled by the county's sheriff department, according to the Ventura County Sheriff's Department.
Dixon, who was ousted from USC's team after allegations of nonconsensual sex in 2014, and Lealaimatafao, who was removed from LSU's team after an arrest on battery and robbery charges last summer, reportedly met at a football game in 2014.
Los Angeles police detectives say the pair carried out five robberies in Los Angeles, including the carjacking. Some of the robberies occurred in the Rampart Division area west of downtown L.A., they said.
After one of those Rampart-area robberies Tuesday, detectives were able to get a description of a getaway car, police said. Acting on a crime alert that contained a vehicle and suspect description, Southwest Division officers stopped Dixon and Lealaimatafao in a car on Van Ness Avenue about 1 p.m.
Dixon, investigators said, had borrowed the car from a friend at USC. Police say they found evidence inside the vehicle tying the men to the robberies.
Dixon was expelled from USC in May. However, he was reinstated by a judge after he filed a legal challenge to his expulsion. Although he was reinstated, he was not allowed to return to the football team.
Dixon was investigated for two alleged incidents of misconduct in fall 2014, both involving the same female USC student, who was an athletic trainer.
He was cleared of misconduct for an Oct. 9 incident, but was found to have violated USC's "affirmative consent" policy on sexual activity Oct. 23, 2014.
Dixon, in a lawsuit, said USC's sexual-misconduct investigation process is "utterly lacking" in due process.
Lealaimatafao, a Texas native and defensive tackle, signed with LSU but was kicked out last June after three off-the-field incidents. He was arrested on suspicion of simple robbery and simple battery.
According to a Louisiana newspaper, the Advocate, Lealaimatafao knocked a man unconscious and struck a woman in a bar parking lot. In addition, during his rookie season, he smashed a window at a gym with his fist and was accused of stealing a bicycle from the LSU campus.