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Pelini not called to stand as sides rest in Dennard trial

Pelini not called to stand as sides rest in Dennard trial

From the witness stand, Alfonzo Dennard showed the jury Friday how he twisted around at bar close April 21 when someone came from behind and grabbed him.

He demonstrated the quarter turn, his left arm raised 45 degrees.

As bar-goers spilled out onto the sidewalks near 14th and O streets, Dennard said he didn't know it was a Lincoln police officer until he turned around and saw his jacket.

"I was thinking it was the guys we had an altercation with. It happened so fast," said the former Husker football player, now a member of the NFL New England Patriots.

He admitted that after he saw it was a police officer, specifically Lincoln Officer Ben Kopsa, he told him he was going home when the officer said he was under arrest.

And he backed away from Kopsa as he tried to put handcuffs on him. They circled around, he said, as the officer tried to grab his arm. He admitted on the stand he resisted efforts of the police to arrest him.

What started out as a night celebrating the upcoming NFL draft with a small group of family and friends ended with Dennard's arrest.

Prosecutors charged him with assaulting a police officer, a felony, and misdemeanors for resisting arrest and assaulting another man.

His attorney, Terry Dougherty, asked Dennard why he resisted.

"At the time I felt like I didn't do anything," Dennard said.

Kopsa testified earlier in the week that he had seen Dennard hit a man, Ben Samani, after the two of them had collided in the crosswalk.

Samani said Dennard had shouldered him and walked through him. Dennard said Samani was the one who lowered his shoulder and bumped him, then pushed him.

"That's why I hit him in the chest," Dennard said Friday, but not hard enough for him to move. 

He said he wasn't sure if his fist was closed, but it probably was.

But Dennard denies that he hit Kopsa in the face or anywhere else that night.

"From the time Officer Kopsa came up and grabbed you to the time you were laying on the ground, did you strike Officer Kopsa?" Dougherty asked him.

"No, sir," Dennard said.

On cross examination, he said it was possible that he had touched the officer when he turned around. And in the interview the night of his arrest, he said it was possible his fist had hit the officer, "but I didn't throw a punch."

"You decided to put yourself in that bar break situation where people drink and people fight?" Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Matt Acton asked him.

"Right," Dennard said.

Six days before the NFL draft.

He asked Dennard about how he accused officers that night of framing him and had him look at the 17-second video of the incident to see if he could see a shiny object that he suggested was the NU ring Dennard was wearing on his right hand that night.

Dennard said he couldn't see it.

Just after 6 p.m., shortly before both sides had rested, Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini walked in the courtroom and sat in the front row.

The defense had subpoenaed him, but closed without calling him.

After the jury left the courtroom, Pelini shook his former player's hand and talked to his lawyer but declined to comment to reporters.

Because Monday is a holiday, closing arguments are expected Tuesday morning.

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

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Public safety reporter

Lori Pilger is a Norfolk native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been a public safety reporter for the Journal Star since 2005.

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