October 9, 2015 / 5:33 PM / 3 years ago

NBA player Sefolosha acquitted in New York nightclub case

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Atlanta Hawks player Thabo Sefolosha was acquitted by a jury on Friday of all charges related to an April confrontation with New York City police outside a nightclub that left him with a broken leg.

NBA player Thabo Sefolosha, 30, of the Atlanta Hawks is seen escorted out of the 10th Precinct of the New York Police Department (NYPD) in Manhattan, New York on April 8, 2015. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Sefolosha, a 31-year-old Swiss citizen who missed the rest of the National Basketball Association season last spring after suffering the injury, was found not guilty by a six-member jury on charges of obstructing governmental administration, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

The April 8 incident took place at 4 a.m. outside the 1 OAK nightclub in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood where Indiana Pacers forward Chris Copeland and his former fiancée were stabbed.

“It’s troubling to me that with so much evidence in my support that this case would even be brought to trial and that I had to defend myself so hard to get justice,” Sefolosha said in a statement.

“It was important to me as a man, a father to two young girls and as a role model, to stand up for what I believe in and have my name cleared of any wrongdoing.”

Sefolosha and Pero Antic, another member of the Hawks, were taken into custody at the time of the incident for allegedly interfering with the arrest and trying to prevent police from setting up a crime scene.

The case against Antic was dismissed while Sefolosha chose to go to trial, rejecting a plea deal offered by prosecutors. Both had been ordered by police to leave the area outside the club after the stabbing occurred.

Documents in the case showed Antic was attempting to calm an escalating situation between a police officer and Sefolosha, when he grabbed the officer’s shoulder but did not cause any injury.

“Thabo is a man of great character and we are proud that he took a principled approach to proving his innocence,” Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer said.

“We are extremely happy for him and his family, and we are very pleased with today’s verdict in his favor.”

The Hawks open their regular season schedule on Oct. 27 against the Detroit Pistons and it was uncertain if Sefolosha, a guard-forward who has played 10 NBA seasons, would be healthy enough to play.

The game is on the same day that the 22-year-old defendant in the stabbing case, Shezoy Bleary, is due back in court to face assault and weapons charges.

Additional reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Christian Plumb and Will Dunham

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