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Trial of Patriots’ Alfonzo Dennard begins

After jury selection Monday, the trial of Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard began in earnest Tuesday in Lincoln, Neb., with attorneys for both sides giving opening statements in the morning and the police officer the player allegedly assaulted taking the stand.

According to the Omaha World-Herald, the opening statements gave conflicting accounts of what happened in the early morning of April 21, 2012, outside a Lincoln bar, when Dennard allegedly hit the officer and another man.

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The 23-year-old Georgia native, who played at Nebraska and was reportedly out with friends and family that night, is facing third-degree assault on an officer, a felony in Nebraska, and two misdemeanors: resisting arrest/first offense and third-degree assault.

The felony charge carries a maximum sentence of five years and/or a $10,000 fine; the misdemeanors carry maximum punishments of not more than one year and/or a $1,000 fine.

Lancaster County deputy prosecutor Chris Turner said police repeatedly warned a belligerent Dennard to go home and avoid a confrontation, but he ignored the warnings.

Turner said Dennard initiated things.

But Dennard’s attorney, Terry Dougherty, said his client was already upset because others were looking to fight him and his brothers, and one brother already had been punched in the face.

Dougherty said Dennard was headed to round up the rest of his group when the chain of events escalated.

Officer Ben Kopsa testified that when Dennard was crossing the street, he bumped into a man and then punched that man, and Dennard also punched Kopsa when he was moving in to arrest him. Kopsa testified that Dennard hit him in the jaw with a right hook and that, on a scale of 1 to 10, the punch was an 8.

Dougherty said Dennard fought off the officer because he believed he was being attacked from behind. The attorney said Dennard is guilty of resisting arrest but nothing more.

A second police officer, Phillip Tran, reported that it took four officers to arrest Dennard.

Dennard plans to testify in his own defense during the trial, which is expected to continue for most of this week. Ten female and four male jurors were chosen for the case.

The incident happened just days before the NFL draft. Considered a mid-round pick, Dennard fell to the seventh round, where the Patriots took him 224th overall.

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at syoung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.
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