The jury in the trial of Patriots Alfonzo Dennard reached its verdict this morning in a Lincoln, Neb., courtroom, and it’s not good news: the cornerback was found guilty on two of three counts, including felony assault on a police officer. He was also found guilty of misdemeanor resisting arrest, first offense, but the jury found him not guilty on the charge of misdemeanor assault.
Sentencing is scheduled for April 11.
Classified as a Class 3-A felony in Nebraska, the conviction carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison or a $10,000 fine, though there is no minimum punishment.
The resisting arrest conviction carries a maximum penalty of a year in prison or a $1,000 fine, but again there is no minimum.
This is a first offense for Dennard, but traditionally assault against officers is rarely taken lightly.
A seventh-round pick out of Nebraska last year, Dennard was out with friends and family just days before the start of the NFL Draft when the incident leading to his charges occured. As bars were letting out, Dennard first had an altercation with college student Ben Samani, which officer Ben Kopsa saw.
Kopsa approached Dennard, and during their interaction is when Dennard was accused of hitting the officer. A 17-second video taken by an onlooker was evidence in the case; prosecutors said it was clear on the video that Dennard was the aggressor and punched Kopsa. The defense argued that it was impossible to tell from the video whether Dennard had hit the officer.
When he took the stand in his defense, Dennard admitted to resisting arrest and also to hitting Samani in the chest. He insisted that he did not intentionally punch Kopsa.
As for what Dennard’s conviction means for the Patriots, it leaves an already shaky situation at cornerback even more tenuous. The scheduling happens after the deadline to franchise players, March 4, but before the draft, April 25. New England could be forced to franchise Aqib Talib as a result, giving the corner a guaranteed $10 million for the 2013 season, or it could give even more urgency to drafting a cornerback.
New England also has a largely unknown commodity in Ras-I Dowling, the 2011 second-round pick who has played just eight games over his first two seasons due to injury.