A jury on Friday found Atlanta Hawks swingman Thabo Sefolosha not guilty on charges of misdemeanor obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest in the April 8 struggle with NYPD officers that left him with a broken right leg.
The prosecution had argued that Sefolosha, leaving the 1Oak nightclub, had resisted arrest, locking his arms in front of him so he could not be handcuffed. Officers attempted to escort Sefolosha, former teammate Pero Antic, and other people out of the nightclub because another NBA player, Chris Copeland, and his wife had already been knifed.
Sefolosha, 6’6”, contended that he moved off the block to try to hand a beggar a $20 bill after an abusive, confrontational officer who was 5’7” told him to do so. But officers subsequently grabbed him and threw him to the ground. He admitted that he called the officer a “midget.”
His attorney, Alex Spiro, stated, “They arrested him. They broke his leg out of eyeshot or earshot of an unrelated crime scene.” Spiro added that the officer in question targeted Sefolosha because he was black, pointing out that the officer passed by Antic, who is white. One NYPD officer, Richard Caster, said that before his arrest, Sefolosha lunged at another officer, Daniel Dongvort.
Assistant district attorney Francesca Bartolomey said, “The police don’t get to tell the defendant how to play basketball. The defendant doesn’t get to say where the crime scene ends.” Sefolosha rejected a plea deal that would have allowed him to perform one day of community service and avoid any charges. He said, “All I had to do was tell the truth.”
Although Sefolosha’s leg was surgically repaired, it has not fully healed. He said on Friday, “I’ve started running and playing a little bit more; it’s starting to feel better, but I don’t know exactly. I hope I still have a long career ahead of me.”
Last year, Sefolosha averaged 5.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.