NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — NBA player Thabo Sefolosha, who was arrested outside a Manhattan nightclub in April following a confrontation with a police officer, has a character “of the highest order,” his head coach, Mike Budenholzer, testified Thursday.
Taking the stand as the final defense witness in Sefolosha’s trial, Budenholzer described the Atlanta Hawks guard-forward as “highly intelligent” and a “hard worker.”
When asked by defense attorney Alex Spiro to describe his character, he said it was, “of the highest order.”
“Thabo is of the highest character,” he said during brief testimony in Manhattan Criminal Court.
The Swiss national is charged with misdemeanor obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges stemming from a confrontation with officers outside the trendy 1 OAK nightclub in Chelsea early in the morning on April 8. He has pleaded not guilty and refused to accept a plea deal.
Officers testified this week that Sefolosha and former teammate Pero Antic repeatedly disobeyed their orders to move off the block and away from a crime scene that had been established following the earlier stabbing of another NBA player, former Indiana Pacer Chris Copeland, and two women.
Antic was also arrested, but the charges against him were later dismissed.
One of the officers also said Sefolosha lunged at an officer with his arm extended but was intercepted before making contact, eventually taken to the ground and arrested.
Sefolosha has testified that he was complying with orders and moving up the block as a particularly aggressive officer screamed profanities at him.
His attorney has argued that his client was singled out by the officer, JohnPaul Giacona, who is white, because Sefolosha is black.
Sefolosha testified Thursday that he was trying to give money to a panhandler before entering an awaiting car when he was grabbed by police. He said his leg was kicked in the scuffle and he was taken to the ground, handcuffed and hauled to a police precinct. He suffered a fractured right leg, which forced him to miss the playoffs.
The case is the second one involving high-profile athletes accusing NYPD officers of wrongdoing this year. On Wednesday, the city agency charged with investigating police misconduct substantiated claims by former tennis star James Blake that an officer used excessive force when he took him to the ground last month after mistkaing Blake for a fraud suspect.
Shevoy Bleary Murdock, of Brooklyn, was arrested and charged with assault and criminal possession of a knife in the Copeland stabbing.
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