Ann Arbor – Boubacar Cissoko, a former starting cornerback for the Michigan Wolverines, was sentenced Wednesday to 19 months to 15 years in prison for his admitted involvement in four robberies earlier this year.
“All I wanted to do was just play football, and then I couldn’t do it,” Cissoko, 22, told Washtenaw Circuit Court Judge Archie Brown. Coach Rich Rodriguez kicked Cissoko off the team five months before the robberies for violating team rules. “I still have a love for the game.
“But, no excuses, your honor. I take responsibility for what I did. It was wrong.”
Cissoko is likely to serve the 19 months, minus 107 days for the time he has been incarcerated since his arrest.
Recruited by former coach Lloyd Carr, Cissoko ranked as high as third in the nation at his position, out of Cass Technical High School. Family, his high school coach and a former high school teammate told The Detroit News earlier this summer they did not understand what happened to Cissoko, whom they described as a disciplined, dutiful player and person before he arrived in Ann Arbor.
Seven friends and relatives appeared in court Wednesday, to support Cissoko.
“Of course, he’s sorry for what he’s done,” said his brother, Terence Willis, who also expressed puzzlement at the course of events. When asked if it was spurred by Cissoko’s reaction to losing a spot on the Michigan roster — which his high school coach Thomas Wilcher, a former Wolverine, said was Cissoko’s singular desire — Willis nodded and whispered, “I think so.”
Cissoko expressed sorrow, several times, as he addressed Brown.
“I take full responsibility for my actions,” he said. “I had a lot going for myself, and then I found myself in a bad place.”
According to a probation report prepared for the sentencing, Cissoko abused drugs in 2008 and 2009.
Brown said he had no objection to Cissoko entering boot camp as a special alternative to incarceration, if he’s deemed eligible by state corrections officials. If Cissoko performs well in the camp, it might further shorten his sentence.
“Sometimes people find out the most about themselves when they’ve got nothing going for them,” Brown told Cissoko. “What is important is what you do about it, now.”
Cissoko admitted that in June, about five months after he was dismissed from the team, he stole money from two people who delivered him food in Ann Arbor and also from a cab driver in Ypsilanti, all March 13.
He also admitted he stuck a pellet gun in a cab driver’s face, in April, in Ann Arbor, attempting to rob him. In an assertion that was not contested by prosecutors or police, Cissoko said that when he saw how badly he had scared the driver, he ran away without taking money.
The crime spree began after Rodriguez dismissed Cissoko from the team in October for failing to appear, or to appear in a timely way, for practices and training and study sessions.
Cissoko’s grandmother, Victoria Willis, wept in court, as Cissoko spoke.
“It was just so hard to hear Boubacar say his regrets,” she said afterward. “It’s been a mystery to all of us.”