New York City

NYC trial starts for NBA player charged in clash with NYPD

October 7, 2015 By Jake Pearson Associated Press
In this photo from April 8, Atlanta Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha, center, leaves a courthouse in New York. Sefolosha is fighting charges that he blocked officers from setting up a crime scene following the stabbing of Indiana Pacers' Chris Copeland outside a trendy Manhattan nightclub in April. AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File
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Opening statements were set to begin Tuesday in the trial of a professional basketball player charged with resisting arrest and other crimes during a confrontation with police officers outside a trendy Manhattan nightclub in April.

The Atlanta Hawks’ Thabo Sefolosha, who suffered a season-ending leg fracture in the struggle, has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which also include misdemeanor obstructing government administration and disorderly conduct. He has rejected a plea offer from prosecutors, and his attorney, Alex Spiro, has said Sefolosha is going to trial to clear his name.

A jury was picked Monday in Manhattan Criminal Court.

The case stems from an early morning struggle outside the 1Oak Club in Chelsea shortly after the stabbing of Indiana Pacers forward Chris Copeland, his girlfriend and another woman. It was then that the 30-year-old guard-forward ignored six orders to move away from the crime scene, charged at an officer and then flailed his arms and twisted his legs while being placed under arrest, according to a criminal complaint.

During jury selection, Spiro said that while his client, a black Swiss national, may have been “mouthy” and “fresh” in his dealings with officers after the stabbing, no crime had been committed. He also suggested race played a role in his client’s arrest by a white officer.

“Are you all willing to understand that we’re all swayed at some level by implicit racial biases?” he asked potential jurors.

Six police officers will be called as witnesses for the prosecution, an assistant district attorney, Francesca Bartolomey, said Monday. Spiro had sought to review the personnel records of five of the officers involved, but the judge, Robert Mandelbaum, denied that motion.

Charges against another Hawks player involved in the confrontation, Pero Antic, were dropped.


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