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Patriots cornerback Dennard testifies in own defense

Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard is charged with third-degree felony assault on an officer, misdemeanor assault and misdemeanor resisting arrest.

Elise Amendola/AP

Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard is charged with third-degree felony assault on an officer, misdemeanor assault and misdemeanor resisting arrest.

Alfonzo Dennard, on trial for charges stemming from an April 21, 2012 incident with police in Lincoln, took the witness stand in his own defense Friday.

According to the Omaha World-Herald, Dennard admitted striking a man and resisting arrest, but said he did not punch a police officer.

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The former Nebraska cornerback, now with the Patriots, is charged with third-degree felony assault on an officer, misdemeanor assault and misdemeanor resisting arrest. The charges carry maximum punishments of up to seven years in jail and $12,000 in fines.

As bars in the area of 14th and O Streets were letting out for the night, Dennard, who reportedly was out with friends and family celebrating the upcoming NFL draft, allegedly dropped his shoulder into college student Ben Samani as they were crossing the street in opposite directions, then punched him.

Lincoln police officer Ben Kopsa saw the altercation and approached Dennard; the player is accused of having punched Kopsa as he tried to arrest him.

Earlier in the week, Kopsa testified that Dennard hit him with a right hook and that on a scale of 1 to 10, the punch was an 8.

Dennard testified he didn’t understand why the officer was arresting him because, Dennard said, Samani hit him first.

“I kept backing away from [Kopsa]. I kept telling him, ‘No, I’m not getting arrested,’ ” Dennard said. “Basically, he was trying to grab my arm.”

Kopsa had testified that after seeing Dennard punch Samani, he went to arrest the former Husker, but Dennard eluded the officer as he tried to grab his arms, and Dennard punched him in the jaw.

Dennard did admit to punching Samani, whom Dennard said was staggering and hit Dennard with his shoulder while the two were crossing the street. Dennard said he jabbed Samani in the chest.

Samani had earlier testified that Dennard hit him in the pectoral area, but it only hurt for a couple of seconds.

As Dennard was walking away from Samani, he said someone grabbed him from behind.

“I turned around and saw it was a police officer. He said, ‘You’re under arrest,’ ’’ Dennard testified. “I said, ‘No, I’m going home.’ He kept trying to grab my arm, I kept pulling it away.”

Dennard made a turn to try to get out of Kopsa’s grasp but did not think he hit the officer.

When he was questioned by his attorney, Terry Dougherty, Dennard said he did not throw a punch at Kopsa, nor did he strike him in the face with a closed fist.

When he was questioned by Lancaster County prosecutor Matt Acton, Dennard said it is possible he hit Kopsa with his right arm but insisted he did not intentionally punch him.

Dennard testified after his twin brother Lorenzo was on the stand. Lorenzo Dennard said he did not see his brother hit Kopsa.

Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini was subpoenaed to testify in the case, but since he was not present at the time of the alleged incident, Pelini likely would have been called as a character witness.

The defense rested on Friday afternoon without Pelini taking the stand.

With Presidents’ Day on Monday, the jury of 10 women and four men is expected to get the case on Tuesday after closing arguments.

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