Hale, Gardenhire suspended following drug arrests

Two MSU football players, junior cornerback Naijiel Hale and senior cornerback Darren Gardenhire, were suspended from the team following their arrest Wednesday, April 5, on allegations that they were dealing the prescription drug Xanax.

Hale was charged with a misdemeanor count of possession of dangerous drugs and two counts of felony distribution of dangerous drugs. Gardenhire is facing a charge of felony distribution of dangerous drugs. A third MSU student, Christopher Flanagan, was arrested on the same allegations and charged with felony counts of possession with intent to distribute dangerous drugs and possession of property subject to criminal forfeiture.

According to the charging documents, a confidential informant with the Missouri River Drug Task Force set up a purchase of Xanax with Hale and met with Gardenhire to complete the purchase. Hale was also present at a second deal in February. Investigators served a search warrant Wednesday, April 5 at Hale and Gardenhire’s residence.

On Thursday morning, April 6, Judge Rick West ordered the bail amounts of $25,000 for Hale and $20,000 for Gardenhire during an appearance in Gallatin County Justice Court.

MSU announced Thursday morning, April 6, that Hale and Gardenhire were suspended from the team indefinitely. “We’ve addressed it with the team and those are things that stay in-house,” Head Coach Jeff Choate said. “They understand where we’re coming from on this and I think we have a good plan in place on how we’re going to deal with it and move forward.”

Hale and Gardenhire are both transfer students from the University of Washington. Hale played for the Huskies in the 2014 season, and transferred to Montana State in February 2016 as part of Choate’s first signing class.

Gardenhire transferred to MSU after leaving the Huskies mid-season in November 2016, where he was, “at odds with UW coaches at least in part because of his refusal to take a drug test,” according to a report by Adam Jude of the Seattle Times.

Montana State University officials revamped the student conduct code’s bans on research drug use and prescription drug abuse hours before the arrests. The University Council voted unanimously the morning of April 5, to approve a student conduct code update which had been introduced one month before.

The original policy prohibits the use, possession, manufacture or sale of “narcotics or dangerous drugs.” The new code bans narcotics or dangerous drugs “as defined by city, state or federal laws,” and also adds “mind-altering drugs, designer drugs or synthetic substances” and “abuse, distribution or improper use of prescription drugs.”  

According to Dean of Students Matt Caires, the extended drug policy will be used as a way to educate students about the dangers of drug usage and involvement. Education programs for the policy will start the summer of 2017 during orientation for incoming freshmen.