A Manhattan Criminal Court jury found Thabo Sefolosha not guilty on all three charges levied against him for his involvement in an April incident with New York City police, tweets Robert Silverman of The Daily Beast. The Hawks swingman faced up to a year in jail, as Rebecca Rosenberg of the New York Post noted this week, on charges of misdemeanor obstructing government administration, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. The April scuffle left Sefolosha with a broken leg that prematurely ended his season and limited the Hawks in the playoffs, where a 60-win Atlanta team fell in the Eastern Conference Finals. Sefolosha expects to be 100% recovered in time for the season, as Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution relayed at the start of training camp (Twitter link).
The verdict allows Sefolosha and the Hawks to put the incident behind them, though it’s possible that Sefolosha will file a civil suit against the police, whom he claims unlawfully injured him, as Michael McCann of SI.com posited. Sefolosha sought to clear his name as he rejected a plea deal that would have seen the charges dismissed and punishment limited to a single day of community service, Rosenberg points out. Prosecutors earlier dropped their case against former Hawks big man Pero Antic, who was with Sefolosha at the time of the incident. Antic signed with Fenerbahce Ulker of Turkey this past summer.
Hawks coach and president of basketball operations Mike Budenholzer took the stand in Sefolosha’s trial, testifying to the character of the now 31-year-old whom the Hawks acquired via sign-and-trade in 2014, as Danny Knobler passes along in a story for the Journal-Constitution. Sefolosha’s contract calls for him to make $4MM this season and $3.85MM next season, all of it guaranteed.
“All teams do things differently, but character is our most important thing,” Budenholzer said under oath. “Thabo was someone I personally very much wanted and sought. I felt he was exactly the type of person and player we wanted in Atlanta, that I wanted in Atlanta.”
Then-Pacers combo forward Chris Copeland, who has since signed with the Bucks, was stabbed outside the same club on the same night that Sefolosha and Antic were arrested. Prosecutors alleged that the arrests took place when Sefolosha and Antic would not move away from the crime scene after police asked them to do so six times, but sources told Greg Hanlon of SI.com that Sefolosha and Antic were walking back to a car that was to take them to their team hotel when an officer began to chase after them, leading to the arrests.