Players skip Pierce trialDefense charges intimidationBy Kathleen Burge, Globe Staff, 10/2/2002wo New England Patriots players did not appear in court yesterday
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, Oct 2, 2002
Players skip Pierce trialDefense charges intimidationBy Kathleen Burge, Globe Staff, 10/2/2002wo New England Patriots players did not appear in court yesterday to testify for Anthony Hurston, one of three men charged with attacking Celtics star Paul Pierce, prompting Hurston's lawyer to charge Patriots management and Boston police with intimidating his witnesses. Lawyer Milloy and Willie McGinest were expected to be the latest sports celebrities to appear in Suffolk Superior Court from a star-studded witness list that has already included Pierce and his Celtics teammate, Tony Battie.
Neither Milloy nor McGinest was at the Buzz Club on Sept. 25, 2000, the night Pierce was stabbed eight times. But they had agreed to testify for Hurston as character witnesses, according to John Swomley, Hurston's lawyer.
Milloy and McGinest knew Hurston from his involvement in Pop Warner youth football and his former job as a sports writer for a rap magazine. Swomley told jurors that Hurston loves sports and would not harm a sports star.
The defense finished calling witnesses yesterday and this morning lawyers on both sides are expected to make their closing arguments to the jury. After Judge Charles Spurlock instructs them on the law, jurors will probably begin deliberating today.
Hurston, 33, William Ragland, 30, and Trevor Watson, 35, are charged with punching, kicking, and stabbing Pierce in the Theater District nightclub two years ago. The three have pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include armed assault with intent to murder and assault and battery with dangerous weapons.
Outside the courtroom yesterday, Swomley charged that Milloy and McGinest changed their minds because they were pressured by Patriots and Celtics management, and in Milloy's case, by Boston police.
''I think the government and the team put pressure on the Patriots,'' he said. ''I think also the Celtics management put pressure on the Patriots.''
McGinest told Hurston on Monday night that Patriots' officials had warned him not to get involved, and that he couldn't testify because ''the heat was too much,'' Swomley said.
And Milloy had told Hurston that Boston police stopped by his house over the weekend to change his mind, saying the defendants in the Pierce case are ''bad people,'' Swomley said.
Stacey James, director of media relations for the Patriots, disputed Swomley's allegations. ''This matter does not involve the New England Patriots and the team has taken no position in the proceedings,'' he said.
Mariellen Burns, a spokeswoman for the Boston Police Department, declined to respond to the charges while the trial continues, saying only that Commissioner Paul Evans had faith in the ''integrity and professionalism'' of the police officers involved in the case.
But David Procopio, a spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney's office, scoffed at Swomley's charges.
''That's a ridiculous contention,'' Procopio said. ''The government does not and has not pressured any witnesses or any organizations affiliated with any witnesses.''
Swomley said the two football players would have testified that Hurston is not a ''player hater'' but rather, a man in love with sports. Hurston coaches Pop Warner football even though he doesn't have children, Swomley said.
He attends Patriots games around the country, and went to Celtics playoff games even after he was charged with attacking Pierce, Swomley said. Swomley said he decided against trying to force the two Patriots players to appear in court.
Also yesterday, the lawyers for the three men renewed their request to Spurlock to throw out some of the charges, arguing that prosecutors have not presented enough evidence to sustain the charges. Spurlock denied their first request last week, after prosecutors finished their case.
But Spurlock said he would let the jury return its verdict before he decided the motions, leaving open the possibility of overturning at least portions of a jury verdict.
Meanwhile, Pierce is considering filing a civil lawsuit against the Buzz Club for his injuries. Pierce hired lawyer Salvatore DiMasi to advise him during the criminal trial and DiMasi said he may file a civil suit against the club after the criminal trial is over.
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