Jury selected in trial for ex-Husker Dennard - Omaha.com
Published Monday, February 11, 2013 at 12:26 pm / Updated at 11:48 pm
FOOTBALL
Jury selected in trial for ex-Husker Dennard

LINCOLN — Alfonzo Dennard’s defense lawyer called it the “big gorilla in the room.”

“Let’s call it as we see it,” said Terry Dougherty of Lincoln. “This is a case about a football player. It’s a very honest occupation, but people have opinions about football players. Alfonzo Dennard is a football player. He was a football player in college, and he’s a football player now. And he’s proud of it.”

Dennard, 23, faces a felony charge for allegedly assaulting a police officer at about 2:10 a.m. last April 21. The incident occurred outside a downtown Lincoln bar shortly after closing time. On Monday, a jury of 10 women and four men was chosen for Dennard’s trial, expected to continue through Friday in Lancaster County District Court.

The former standout Husker cornerback, who plays now for the New England Patriots, also faces two misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and the assault of another man.

The assault charges are classified as third-degree, which involves intentionally or recklessly injuring another. Usually a misdemeanor, it becomes a possible felony if the victim is a police officer. If convicted of all three counts, Dennard could face penalties from probation to more than five years in prison and more than $11,000 in fines.

Dennard, donning a white shirt and dress pants, was accompanied Monday by only his lawyer. He sat quietly during proceedings.

His jury was chosen from a pool of more than 50 potential jurors. A court official said the larger-than-usual number was summoned out of concern that Dennard’s status might make it difficult to find impartial jurors.

Upon initial questioning, about half of the pool indicated they had heard about the incident through news accounts or other sources. Only three, however, indicated they knew enough to influence their decision. They were excused from serving.

No one raised their hand when prosecutor Matthew Acton asked if the potential jurors followed Dennard’s athletic career. Less than a handful indicated they knew he plays for the NFL’s Patriots.

“Follow him, how?” one man asked. “We just watched the game. We had knowledge he was on the (Husker) football team.”

Said another man: “Every once in awhile, somebody would make a big play and it would say ‘Dennard’ on the back of the jersey.”

A third man said that while he didn’t search for information about Dennard’s football play, he recognized Dennard from watching Husker games on TV and reading game stories in the Sunday newspapers.

None of those three were selected for the jury.

According to police reports, officers were monitoring “bar break” — closing time — at 2 a.m. in downtown Lincoln when Officer Phillip Tran observed Dennard arguing with another person. Tran reported that he and another officer, Benjamin Kopsa, instructed Dennard to leave to avoid problems. Kopsa tried to arrest Dennard after he allegedly punched another man. When Kopsa grabbed Dennard’s left arm, Dennard allegedly punched the officer in the face with his closed right fist. Tran reported that four officers were needed to take Dennard into custody.

The incident happened a week before Dennard was selected by New England in the seventh round of the NFL draft. Dennard went on to have a strong rookie season, starting in the last half of the year. Dennard reportedly missed some practice time because he needed to be in Nebraska for pre-trial hearings.
Dennard disputes police accounts, Dougherty said.

The attorney questioned jurors about their relationships with police, noting that “we have a case that depends so much upon the credibility of private citizens and police officers.”

Contact the writer: Leslie Reed

leslie.reed@owh.com    |   402-473-9581    |  

Leslie covers higher education issues and events affecting Nebraska college students and their families.

Beau McCoy strikes Obama doll in TV ad; Democrats are not happy
Cult murderer's death row appeal denied, but execution in limbo
Police: Slaying of woman in Ralston apartment likely over drugs
Keystone XL pipeline backers blast 'political expediency' as foes hail ruling to delay decision
Nebraska senators to study tax issues over break
Interstate construction to cause lane shifts, closings in Omaha area
Man, 21, shot in ankle while walking near 30th, W Streets
Teenager arrested after woman's purse is snatched outside Omaha store
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
17 senators in Nebraska Legislature hit their (term) limits
Omahan charged in fatal shooting in Benson neighborhood
Friday's attendance dips at Millard West after bathroom threat
High school slam poets don't just recite verses, 'they leave their hearts beating on the stage'
Crack ring's leaders join others in prison as a result of Operation Purple Haze
Haze in area comes from Kansas, Oklahoma
Man taken into custody in domestic dispute
Omaha judge reprimanded for intervening in peer attorney's DUI case
Intoxicated man with pellet gun climbs billboard's scaffold; is arrested
Police seek public's help in finding an armed man
Saturday forecast opens window for gardening; Easter egg hunts look iffy on Sunday
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Last day of 2014 Legislature: Praise, passage of a last few bills and more on mountain lions
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
A voice of experience: Ex-gang member helps lead fight against Omaha violence
Church is pressing its case for old Temple Israel site
< >
COLUMNISTS »
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
The main speaker at today's Ivy Day celebration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a college president who grew up roping calves and earned her Ph.D. at the prestigious Oxford University in England.
Breaking Brad: Stuck in a claw machine? You get no Easter candy
I know of one kid in Lincoln who will be receiving a lump of coal from the Easter Bunny, just as soon as he's extricated from that bowling alley claw machine.
Breaking Brad: Mountain lion season's over, but the bunny's fair game!
Thursday was the last day of a Nebraska Legislature session. Before leaving town, legislators passed a bill to hold a lottery to hunt the Easter Bunny.
Breaking Brad: At least my kid never got stuck inside a claw machine
We need a new rule in Lincoln. If your kid is discovered inside the claw machine at a bowling alley, you are forever barred from being nominated for "Mother of the Year."
Breaking Brad: How many MECA board members can we put in a luxury suite?
As a stunt at the Blue Man Group show, MECA board members are going to see how many people they can stuff into one luxury suite.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »