Ayers, Williams and Ethridge were arrested while present at the house where roughly 7 ounces of the illegal narcotic “molly,” a large amount of high-grade marijuana and a firearm were seized.
On Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney Erle Newton asked Willingham, “Is it your sworn testimony then that [Ayers, Etheridge and Williams] had no involvement whatsoever and it was a mere coincidence that they were at your residence that day?”
Willingham replied, “Yes, sir,” and Ayers, Ethridge and Williams, who were present in the viewing section of the courtroom, were cleared on all charges.
“It’s nice now that everybody knows you had nothing to do with it, finally. It was stupid that it took this long when they could have done it in two days,” Etheridge said. “I’m just glad it’s over with. I’m just looking forward to the days after this and not looking back.”
Etheridge, a senior at Cass High, had been attending an alternative school since his arrest. After starting at quarterback on the Cass football team his sophomore and junior seasons, Ethridge was not allowed to participate in the 2013 season. He also had been unable to play in Cass’ first nine baseball games this season.
Etheridge hopes to return to school and the baseball team as soon as possible.
“I guess they’ll try to transfer my grades through [the alternative school]. I guess when that’s done, after they get something in writing from the judge, I get to go back to school. That’s what they said, so that’s what I’m hoping. I have to talk to the principal and see what kind of schedule I need,” Etheridge said. “I’ve just been practicing and working hard by myself until today and, finally, I can go back to my team. You have to go to school to play, so I guess I can go and watch [Tuesday’s game at Gilmer] because, with this thing, I couldn’t even go to the games.
“[Cass head baseball coach Adam Williams] has been calling me, and I finally get to tell him, ‘I’ll see you on the field.’”
Williams said paperwork will need to be filed with the GHSA, but he hopes to have Etheridge back as soon as possible.
“We’re excited that Brandon gets his life back,” Williams said. “We’re going to welcome him back and accept him as part of our team.”
Etheridge was an all-county team member as an outfielder for the Colonels last season, hitting .376 while scoring 33 runs. He drove in 17 RBIs, walked 14 times and turned in a .516 slugging percentage to go along with a .473 on-base percentage. He also contributed on the mound, pitching 52.9 innings with a 3.05 ERA and 83 strikeouts.
Etheridge also hopes for a future in baseball after he graduates from Cass.
“I’m just ready to better my life, finally, and try to go to the best college I can because that was holding me back. Nobody wanted a felon, so I’m just glad to be off,” he said. “I’ll probably go to a JUCO. I’ll probably go play with [Williams] at Georgia Perimeter, so I might do that. That’s an option. I’m probably going to go try out and work out with them over spring break.”
Ayers and Williams, who both graduated from Cass in 2013, are each playing junior college baseball. Ayers has played 11 games this season for Wallace State Community College as an infielder.
“It’s just ridiculous that it took this long, but I’m glad it’s finally done, though. I’m glad that it’s finally over, but I had to miss practices in college for this,” Ayers said of the case Tuesday. “l’ll head back tonight and go to school and practice tomorrow.”
Williams, who originally signed to play for Louisiana State University, has pitched in seven games for Georgia Perimeter College, started three and has won two.
He has pitched 19 innings and allowed just a 1.89 earned run average, while recording 20 strikeouts.
“It’s just great feeling to get it all behind me, so I’m excited,” Williams said. “I’m playing baseball at Georgia Perimeter College. I went this second semester and I’m doing pretty well, actually. We’re doing real well in conference and I’m in the starting rotation.”
Williams is disappointed he was unable to attend LSU, but is excited about his plans to enter the Major League Baseball amateur draft.
“I wanted to go [to LSU] really bad. That was a terrible feeling not to go, but I guess everything happens for a reason. It all worked out,” he said. “Right now, I’m just going to get some hours, take some summer classes and wait and see what next year brings. We’re aiming for the draft.”
“He’s draft eligible this year, so hopefully he’s throwing well. His velocity is up. He had a great outing against Middle Georgia, won a big series, so he looks really good,” Williams’ father, Lathy Williams, said. “The coach is very happy. If we can continue to have a good year, he’ll be draft-ready in June.”