A former Kansas University basketball player who was arrested inside the building where he once was cheered by thousands of Jayhawk fans was sentenced Thursday to a prison term on a cocaine-related conviction.
Sean L. Tunstall, 23, St. Louis, was sentenced to three to 10 years imprisonment on a felony count of selling cocaine that was filed after he sold the drug last spring to an undercover informant working for local drug-enforcement officers.
Tunstall, who played for the Jayhawks in the 1990-91 season, was arrested during a basketball game Dec. 19 at Allen Fieldhouse after a police officer recognized the former player.
Tunstall was booked into the Douglas County Jail on a warrant containing two felony counts of selling cocaine and a felony count of selling cocaine.
He pleaded guilty March 15 to one count of selling cocaine.
His attorney, John Gerstle, Overland Park, told Douglas County District Judge Mike Malone on Thursday that he realized the sentencing would serve as a message to the community.
"I CAN ONLY ask you to consider whether or not the community requires punishment in this case," he said. "I'm asking you to consider probation because I'm wondering what, if anything, we can accomplish for this young man through punishment.
"And I'm suggesting that there is a sufficient deterrent in the form of probation hanging over Mr. Tunstall's head."
Assistant Dist. Atty. Rick Trapp pressed for a stiffer penalty, telling Malone that Tunstall "seems to minimize what he's done."
"He sold a dangerous drug, not knowing where it would end up," Trapp said.
Trapp said Tunstall who he admitted was "not a major cocaine dealer" sold a small amount of the drug and made very little money off the transaction.
"But Sean Tunstall and many others like him are what keeps the cocaine trade going," Trapp said.
TUNSTALL DID not speak on his own behalf.
Malone told Tunstall that because the former player "had the potential to affect a lot of people in a positive way," his conviction was especially regrettable.
Although Tunstall was sentenced to a minimum of three years, he may have to serve only a small fraction of that term.
Malone said he would consider parole after he received a report from the State Reception and Diagnostic Center, Topeka, where inmates are sent for an evaluation to determine where they should be incarcerated or whether they should be granted parole.
Tunstall was one of the top Jayhawk reserves during his junior season, which culminated in KU advancing to the 1991 NCAA Tournament final.
He sat out his freshman year after failing to meet academic requirements. He also did not play as a sophomore because the NCAA ruled there were irregularities in his American College Test score.
Tunstall was suspended for the first semester of his senior year for disciplinary reasons. He did not return to the team during the second semester.