Jury Finds Alfonzo Dennard Guilty of Assaulting Police Officer, Resisting Arrest

By: 10/11 News Email
By: 10/11 News Email

VERDICT

  • Guilty of assaulting a Lincoln Police Officer (felony)
  • Guilty of resisting arrest
  • Not Guilty of third-degree assault

WEDNESDAY - DAY 7 - VERDICT
A jury found former Nebraska football player Alfonzo Dennard guilty of assaulting a Lincoln police officer and resisting arrest. Prosecutors had also charged Dennard with third-degree assault of a 22-year-old man during the early morning hours of April 21. The jury found Dennard not guilty on that charge.

Lancaster County Attorney Joe Kelly is pleased with the verdict and hopes the case highlights the challenge Lincoln police officers face with crowd control when bars close in downtown Lincoln.

"A case like this usually can serve to highlight what the police face down there very often," said Kelly. "My memory is that there were 142 assaults in that one area (downtown Lincoln) in 2012...It shows what a difficulty it is for police to manage that situation day to day, keep everyone else safe, their primary job, while keeping themselves safe."

Kelly talked about the value of having video surveillance cameras in the downtown area. He thinks the video helped the jury reach a verdict in this case.

"When you have these fights that occur after bars close or in bars you usually have some witnesses that have been drinking and you usually have some very different accounts of what happened," said Kelly.

Alfonzo Dennard's Attorney Terry Dougherty said they are disappointed with the jury's verdict. He would not take questions from reporters but did talk briefly on camera.

"Our work is not done," said Dougherty. "We have to turn our attention to the sentencing hearing coming up in April. We'll be working for that so that the sentence is appropriate to what the evidence is disclosed in front of the jury."

Dennard could face up to five years in prison for the charges, but there is no minimum sentence. His sentencing is set for April 11 at 8:30 a.m.

TUESDAY - DAY 6
After two hours of closing arguments and final instructions from District Court Judge Stephanie Stacy, the jury is deliberating the fate of Alfonzo Dennard.

Dennard is accused of a felony charge of assault on an officer. He is also charged with assault and resisting arrest, both misdemeanors.

Dennard's attorney Terry Dougherty reminded the jury that the prosecution had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Dennard willfully assaulted Lincoln Police Officer Benjamin Kopsa in the early morning hours of April 21 near 14th and O Streets in downtown Lincoln.

Witness accounts were very different making it difficult for the jury. They have to decide which accounts they believe.

After 6 hours of deliberation the jury could not come to a verdict. The trial will continue on Wednesday at 9 a.m.

FRIDAY - DAY 5

Alfonzo Dennard took the stand on Friday.

Alfonzo Dennard's twin brother Lorenzo took the stand Friday. He said he was there when the incident happened April 21 and has a good memory of the night. He said Alfonzo did not hit or punch anyone except a white man that pushed him while the two were walking in the cross walk.

Dennard's brother's girlfriend, Natalie Nebels finished testifying. In response to a question about Dennard resisting arrest, she said, "he [Dennard] was defending himself. He got blindsided."

Court records show Husker Football Coach Bo Pelini was subpoenaed Thursday to appear on behalf of Dennard and possibly testify as a witness.

THURSDAY - DAY 4

Testimony on day four of the Alfonzo Dennard trial focused on the specifics of what happened during the early morning hours of April 21, 2012. In court documents, Benjamin Samani is listed as a party in the altercation that resulted in Officer Kopsa’s response. Another man who was with Samani the night of the incident also gave his account. It appears there were punches thrown, but it’s not clear who hit whom. Samani said although Dennard punched him in the gut, but someone else hit him in the face.

Officer Scott Jarecke gave his account of making the arrest with Officer Kopsa. He stated that in his opinion, Dennard resisted arrest.

Officer Phillip Tran told the court he broke up that incident and told Dennard to go home.

That's when the second fight happened, another witness Benjamin Semani testified that he and Dennard elbowed each other and Dennard hit him in the stomach.

That's when Officer Tran saw the commotion of another officer and Dennard going toe to toe. Tran then called for back up.

The witness Benjamin Semani gave some support to Dennard's self-defense theory as he said the officer came up behind Dennard.

WEDNESDAY - DAY 3
Benjamin Kopsa, the Lincoln Police officer who arrested Alfonzo Dennard and was allegedly punched in the jaw, wrapped up testimony Wednesday. The defense also cross examined Kopsa.

The second person to take the stand is Vaughn Wentzel, the physicians assistant who treated Kopsa. He testified about the extent of Kopsa's injuries.

TUESDAY - DAY 2
On day two of Alfonzo Dennard's trial, the jury heard testimony from Lincoln Police Officer Benjamin Kopsa, the same officer Dennard is accused of assaulting.

Kopsa testified, "At one point Mr. Dennard said to the man 'Let's go.' I interpreted that as fighting words. I felt like I had to intervene before there was a fight. I said in a loud voice 'you are under arrest.' He said 'I am good, I am good.' I said 'put your hands up.' He said 'I am going home.' I saw Mr, Dennard punch a white male wearing a white shirt, in the face."

Kopsa testified that several officers tackled Dennard to the ground while trying to restrain him. That's when Dennard allegedly punched Kopsa in the jaw.

Defense Attorney Terry Dougherty said his client's actions were in self defense. He will admit to resisting arrest but not to willfully assaulting an officer.

Dougherty did not get a chance to cross examine Kopsa's testimony. He is expected to do that on Wednesday. Dennard is charged with assault, Resisting Arrest, and Assault on an Officer, which is a class 3A felony that carries up to a five year prison sentence.

MONDAY - DAY 1
Jury selection for a former Nebraska football player accused of assaulting an officer began Monday.

Alfonzo Dennard is accused of punching an officer in the face during a fight outside a downtown Lincoln bar last April.

He's facing three charges: assaulting an officer, resisting arrest and third-degree assault. Dennard pleaded not guilty to all three charges.

Dennard's attorney Terry Dougherty expects the trial to last five days.

Judge Stephanie Stacy said that one of the prospective jurors happens to be her neighbor. She also disclosed that her husband is a former husker football player. Attorneys for both sides agreed that they are aware of the disclosures and said they had no problem with them. Fifty-three prospective jurors were interviewed by counsel for both sides.

Twelve jurors were selected along with two alternates.

Stacy denied a request by 1011 News to allow cameras in the courtroom.

The Assault of an Officer charge is a class three felony.

"I will not be doing any media interviews during the trial," said Terry Dougherty, Dennard's attorney.

Dougherty says the trial should end on Friday.


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