Atlanta Hawks NBA basketball players Thabo Sefolosha, center, and Pero Antic, back left, leave a courthouse in New York, April 8, 2015. (AP/Craig Ruttle)
NEW YORK (AP) -- A professional basketball player was about to give a handout to a man asking for money when police officers took him to the ground and arrested him, a former teammate testified Wednesday.
Ex-Atlanta Hawks power forward Pero Antic said he was sitting in an Uber car with the door open near a trendy Manhattan nightclub in the early hours of April 8 when he heard officers arguing with guard-forward Thabo Sefolosha as he tried to give a beggar money.
"They didn't allow him to give the money," said Antic, who was also arrested after he climbed out of the car and touched an officer's shoulder while asking why his friend was being placed under arrest. "The police officers arrested him before he got to."
Sefolosha has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges stemming from the confrontation with police outside the 1Oak nightclub. Charges against Antic have been dropped. Prosecutors have said in court papers that Sefolosha was lunging toward an officer when he was confronted.
The Swiss national's leg was fractured in the struggle. His attorney has argued that injury was caused by the officers, one of whom had a baton in his hand during the confrontation.
On Wednesday, the man who had asked Sefolosha for money, Amos Canty, testified for the defense that he never received the donation and instead saw Sefolosha being "pushed on the floor."
"They handled him rough," said Canty, a regular outside the nightclub.
Antic, Sefolosha and others were told to move up the block and away from a crime scene where another NBA basketball player, Indiana Pacers forward Chris Copeland, and two women were stabbed earlier, prosecutors have said. But the 6-foot-6-inch Sefolosha repeatedly refused to move away from the scene, calling the 5-foot-7-inch officer who was clearing the block a "midget," an assistant district attorney argued.
Sefolosha's attorney, Alex Spiro, has argued that his client, who is black, was targeted because of his race by a white officer.
The Manhattan Criminal Court judge hearing the case rejected two motions Wednesday to dismiss the disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges. He said he's still deciding a defense motion to dismiss the obstructing government administration charge.