What’s the going rate for punching a cop these days?
The world of professional football is about to find out as New England Patriots’ cornerback Alfonzo Dennard goes on trial today for allegedly striking a police officer outside of a bar in Lincoln Nebraska last April.
If convicted, Dennard faces up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, though the general feeling is that he will face far less stringent penalties, either by making a deal with prosecutors or by leniency from the judge for being a first-time offender.
The timing of the incident was indeed fortuitous for the Patriots. Dennard was arrested just days before the 2012 NFL draft for an incident in which he allegedly punched a police officer in the face outside of a Lincoln area bar – then watched his draft stock plummet as team after team shied away from the talented defensive back.
In danger of going undrafted, the Patriots selected Dennard with their 7th round pick, coach Bill Belichick saying, “We don’t feel that is who he is”, meaning a violent offender. Dennard ended up taking over the starting job opposite Aqib Talib upon Talib’s arrival via trade, and is generally considered to be the steal of the 2012 draft.
The trial was delayed twice, allowing Dennard to play his entire rookie season without having to miss time to attend it, which gives the entire case a feeling of general leniency. A pretrial hearing was held on Jan. 17, 2013, during which the date for the trial was set for today and to continue through this week if needed.
Dennard disputes the police accounts, and both he and the Patriots are anxious to get this episode behind them and start preparing for next season, when the University of Nebraska product is expected to enter training camp as one of the team’s starting cornerbacks.
According to police reports, officers were monitoring “bar break” — closing time — at 2 a.m. in downtown Lincoln when Officer Phillip Tran observed Dennard arguing with another person. Tran reported that he and another officer, Benjamin Kopsa, instructed Dennard to leave to avoid problems. Kopsa tried to arrest Dennard after he allegedly punched another man.
When Kopsa grabbed Dennard’s left arm, Dennard allegedly punched the officer in the face with his closed right fist. Tran reported that four officers were needed to take Dennard into custody.
The trial could take up to four days, and it is unknown in what manner, if any, the Patriots are involved in the defense other than moral support and character references.