Attorneys lay out case against former Husker Dennard

2013-02-12T10:45:00Z 2013-02-20T10:46:04Z Attorneys lay out case against former Husker DennardBy LORI PILGER/ Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

If Alfonzo Dennard's trial plays out the way attorneys said it would in opening statements, jurors will hear two significantly different sides over the next few days as to what happened at bar break on April 21.

"Mr. Dennard was given an opportunity to just go home; however, instead of just going home, instead of just walking away from trouble, Mr. Dennard initiated it," Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Chris Turner said.

He said Lincoln police told Dennard to go home twice that night after they recognized him as a Nebraska football player and saw him get into an argument with one man, then another.

Turner said Officer Ben Kopsa kept an eye on Dennard as he crossed 14th Street east, dropped his shoulder and pushed through a man headed the other direction.

Before Ben Samani could react, he was punched in the face.

Samani, a college student, can't say it was Dennard who hit him. But Kopsa says it was, and that seeing it prompted him to arrest Dennard.

Turner said Dennard pulled away when Kopsa told him to put his hands behind his back, that he was under arrest; and another officer said he saw Dennard throw a punch at Kopsa.

Defense attorney Terry Dougherty said Dennard will admit he resisted arrest that night, but he didn't assault anyone.

He said Dennard was walking away to go home after a relative was assaulted outside a bar and he had words with another man. Then, he said,  someone else in the crowd walked into Dennard as he crossed on the north side of O Street at 14th.

"In fact, Mr. Samani is the one who ran into Alfonzo Dennard," Dougherty said.

He said the two bumped into each other, then pushed each other. Then someone else in the crowd, not Dennard, hit Samani in the face.

Dougherty said the whole thing didn't amount to anything but a pushing match until Kopsa came up behind Dennard and grabbed him.

He said Dennard didn't know the person who grabbed him was an officer and reacted by raising his arm and elbow and swinging around to break free.

Up to that point, Dougherty said, Dennard did nothing wrong.

"He didn't know who was behind him, and he thought he was being attacked," he said.

He said Dennard would take the stand by the end of trial and will say he never swung at or struck Kopsa that night.

If he had, Dougherty said, Kopsa would have had more than two tiny abrasions under his ear that looked like he'd been cut shaving.

After opening statements, Kopsa was the first to take the stand to give his version of what happened that night.

Reach Lori Pilger at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com or follow her on Twitter at LJSpilger.

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