Thabo Sefolosha testified today that he was trying to give money to a beggar and then leave in a car service when he was arrested outside of a New York City nightclub in April. That is when, according to Sefolosha, a police officer who had been unnecessarily belligerent and confrontational to him shortly before, and five of his colleagues, arrested Sefolosha, breaking his leg in the process.
Wednesday was the third day of Sefolosha’s trial in New York City, where he is charged with obstruction of governmental administration, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct for his actions (or, importantly, lack thereof) outside of the nightclub where Chris Copeland was stabbed.
After the stabbing the police established a crime scene, and according to them Sefolosha didn’t move quickly enough to leave it, necessitating his arrest. Sefolosha says that his teammate Pero Antic, among other people, were closer to the crime scene than him, yet they weren’t arrested. (Antic was arrested, but only after touching an officer and asking why Sefolosha had been arrested. The charges against Antic were dropped.)
The crux of the case is how well and quickly did Sefolosha follow the officer’s orders, and it seems like it will come down to whether the jury believes Sefolosha’s testimony or the cops’. Video from the night shows cops throwing Sefolosha to the ground, but there doesn’t seem to be any video leading up to the arrest and takedown which would corroborate either side’s account.
Sefolosha is either extremely confident in his chances of winning, or else believes it is so important to fight the charges that he turned down a pretty lenient plea bargain. According to the New York Times’s dispatch from day two of the trial, he was offered a deal that involved serving just one day of community service, but declined it. Sefolosha’s lawyer said that he believes Sefolosha was arrested because he’s black:
“I think he saw a black man in a hoodie,” Mr. Spiro said of the arresting officer, JohnPaul Giacona. “They grab him, they pounce on him, they pull him limb from limb, they smash him on the ground.”
The cross-examination of Sefolosha, as well as closing statements and likely a verdict, will all happen tomorrow. You can read the New York Times’s wrap-up of day two and AP’s of day three, but for my money the most comprehensive writing on this curiously little-reported trial is by a guy on Reddit who says he is a defense attorney from Atlanta. You can read his commentary on day one (just jury selection), day two, and day three.
Photo via AP