Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was found guilty Wednesday morning of felony assault on a police officer, stemming from an incident last year in Lincoln, Neb.
The 23-year-old Dennard, who just completed his rookie season, also was found guilty of misdemeanor resisting arrest, but acquitted on the charge of misdemeanor assault against another man.
Sentencing is scheduled for April 11, and Dennard, a former Nebraska standout, remains free on bond. Classified as a Class 3A felony in Nebraska, the assault on a police officer conviction carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The resisting arrest conviction carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Lancaster (Neb.) County Attorney Joe Kelly said his office will not make a sentencing recommendation to Judge Stephanie Stacy, which is standard procedure in the county. This is Dennard’s first offense.
Dennard’s attorney, Terry Dougherty, said the next step is to prepare for his client’s next court date.
“We get over our disappointment with the verdict and get ready for sentencing,” Dougherty said. “That’s where we are. The verdict is the verdict, and now we have a sentencing to deal with.”
Dennard was finishing up a night out with friends and family on April 21, 2012, just days before the start of the NFL draft, when the incident occurred. As bars were letting out, Dennard first had an altercation with college student Ben Samani, which was witnessed by Officer Ben Kopsa.
Kopsa approached Dennard, and soon after Dennard hit 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 he did not intentionally punch Kopsa.
While an Omaha World-Herald reporter in the courtroom wrote that it was difficult to ascertain much from the video, taken in the dark and partially obscured by other onlookers, including Dennard’s twin brother, Lorenzo, and Lorenzo’s girlfriend, Kelly did not agree, saying it clearly showed what happened between Dennard and Kopsa.
“I guess I didn’t read those accounts; we believed in the case,” Kelly said. “The video was a very helpful piece of evidence. In our estimation, it was a compelling piece of evidence.”
“I think we made a good effort to convince the jury that the evidence was insufficient. They obviously saw it differently, disagreed, and they convicted him,” Dougherty said. “That’s the jury’s verdict.”
Dougherty did not want to speculate on Dennard’s punishment, saying that he will provide Stacy “with reasons why the sentence should be this and not that.”
The NFL said Wednesday it will review Dennard’s situation in terms of potential punishment. Even though Dennard was not in the NFL at the time of the incident, a league spokesman said this falls under the scope of the personal conduct policy.