CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Panthers Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy was found guilty Tuesday night of assaulting a female and communicating threats.
Mecklenburg County Judge Rebecca Thorn-Tin sentenced Hardy to 18 months’ probation. A 60-day jail sentence was suspended.
Hardy’s attorney Chris Fialko said he’ll appeal and Hardy has asked for a jury trial in superior court. In North Carolina that means the terms of Hardy’s probation are on hold until the trial — so he’s free to travel with the team to training camp and compete in games.
A date for the jury trial hasn’t been set.
The Panthers released a statement Tuesday night saying, “We have just learned of the verdict and are respectful of the process. We do not have a comment at this time.”
Hardy and his agent Drew Rosenhaus refused to comment as they left the courtroom together.
The judge didn’t buy Hardy’s testimony that he was the one abused by the accuser and that he had asked her to leave his downtown apartment during a domestic dispute on May 13.
After nearly 11 hours of hearing testimony, Thorn-Tin told a somber Hardy that “the court is entirely convinced Hardy is guilty of assault on a female and communicating threats.”
Earlier in the morning the accuser testified that she was assaulted by Hardy at his apartment after a night of drinking. She also said Hardy threatened to kill her and put his hands around her neck.
“He looked me in my eyes and he told me he was going to kill me,” said the accuser, a 24-year-old cocktail waitress in downtown Charlotte. “I was so scared I wanted to die. When he loosened his grip slightly, I said just, ‘Do it. Kill me.'”
The accuser said she had used cocaine on the night of the incident and had been drinking.
She described Hardy as jealous and controlling, mentioning several times that Hardy didn’t allow her do some things because he often paid her rent. She said she didn’t immediately give police a statement out of fear of retribution.
“He had told me in past if I took food out of his family’s mouth he was going to kill me,” the accuser said.
Hardy and his business manager Sammy Curtis both testified that Hardy never hit nor threw the accuser, and didn’t communicate threats. Hardy said the accuser became angry when he wouldn’t have sex with her and left the room to sleep in the living room. He said the accuser then became angry and began slamming doors.
Hardy said the accuser then asked him, “Do you want to see crazy? I’ll show you crazy.”
Hardy said she threw herself into the bathtub, causing the bruises she had on her body. Hardy said she also threatened to kill herself if she left his building.
However, Thorn-Tin seemed more inclined to believe the testimony of the accuser and the prosecution’s top witness, Christina Lawrence, another woman who was in Hardy’s apartment at the time of the incident.
Lawrence said she was sleeping in the other room with a friend of Hardy’s when she heard scuffling and fighting and what sounded like a woman being slammed into the wall and dragged across the floor. She said she also heard the accuser say, “What are you going to do, break my arm?”
Hardy and his accuser began dating last September, but had broken up at the Pro Bowl in February. Hardy said they had had sexual relations “five or six times” since.
Hardy’s play on the field has been dynamic. He’s been a key member of Carolina’s second-ranked defense, finishing last season with 15 sacks. The Panthers led the league last season with 50 sacks.
In four seasons with the Panthers, Hardy has 33 sacks, 26 in the last two seasons. He signed a $13.1 million, one-year contract in March as the team’s franchise player.
It’s unclear at this point how the verdict will affect Hardy’s long-term future with the Panthers.
The team is particularly sensitive to domestic violence issues, particularly in light of their history with wide receiver Rae Carruth. Carruth was found guilty of conspiring to murder his girlfriend, Cherica Adams, who was carrying his child. He was sentenced to 18 to 24 years in prison and remains in jail.
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