Judge enters not guilty plea for Pacers' Jackson

Updated: October 13, 2006, 1:42 AM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Pacers guard Stephen Jackson spent more time in a courtroom than on a basketball court Thursday.

Jackson was led away in handcuffs after a judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf on a felony charge of criminal recklessness and two other counts for a fight outside a strip club. Jackson was booked into jail and released after posting $10,000 bond, a spokesman with the prosecutor's office said.

The proceedings took longer than expected, so Jackson missed afternoon practice, Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said.

"He'll have to catch up, and he will," Carlisle said. "He's a smart guy. He picks things up very quickly and he's a veteran, so I'm not worried about it."

Authorities say Jackson, already on probation for his role in the brawl with Detroit Pistons fans two years ago, shot a gun in the air at least five times during the fight outside Club Rio on Oct. 6. Teammates Jamaal Tinsley, Marquis Daniels and Jimmie Hunter were with Jackson at the club but were not charged.

Carlisle said Jackson might play in Saturday's home preseason game against Utah, depending on how well his injuries from the fight heal. Jackson had stitches in his lip and other scrapes and bruises, most of which happened when he was hit by a car during the mayhem, prosecutors said.

But the guard's upcoming schedule includes more than just games and practices.

Jackson, whose charges include misdemeanor counts of battery and disorderly conduct, is scheduled for a pretrial hearing Nov. 1, with his trial to start Jan. 8.

On Thursday, Marion Superior Court Judge Patricia Gifford entered a preliminary plea of not guilty for Jackson. Indiana judges routinely enter not guilty pleas during initial hearings.

If Jackson does not change it within 20 days, it will become his formal plea. Jackson, dressed in a dark suit, was questioned by Gifford and told not to contact witnesses or others involved in the case.

When asked about deputies escorting Jackson in handcuffs, prosecutor Carl Brizzi said he was "treated like any defendant."

Jackson originally told police he fired in self-defense during the fight.

But Brizzi, who filed charges Wednesday, said Jackson got his gun from his car and fired it before the car hit him. Jackson also originally said he was punched in the face, but he later told police his injuries were from being hit by the car, Brizzi said.

Jackson's attorney James Voyles said his client acted in self-defense.

"A group of thugs attacked a group of young men who were there, some of which were the Indiana Pacers," he said after the hearing. "There was a fight. There were threatening things that went on in that event, and during the course of that, self-defense was used."

On Wednesday, prosecutors said Jackson kicked a man who police said has a deformed arm. Jackson told police that the man, Quentin Willford, started the brawl.

Voyles said what happened outside of Club Rio was a fight.

"In a fight, you have throwing fists, kicking -- it's a fight," he said. "You can't characterize a fight as anything else but a fight. I mean, when people characterize it as anything else, they've never seen a fight."

The criminal recklessness charge carries a prison term of six months to three years.

Jackson might also face up to three months in jail in Michigan if a judge there determines he violated probation. Oakland County prosecutor David Gorcyca said his office filed a probation violation with the court but no hearing has been scheduled.

Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal said teammates support Jackson but are continuing to focus on playing well.

"I don't think the situation with Stephen has stopped the beat," he said.

Two other men also face charges in the fight.

The driver of the car that hit Jackson, Deon Willford, 23, is charged with felony counts of criminal recklessness and leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, and a misdemeanor count of driving without a license. The judge Thursday also entered a not guilty plea on Willford's behalf.

Raymel Mattox, who was at the club with the players, was charged with misdemeanor counts of battery, disorderly conduct and marijuana possession. Prosecutors said Mattox started the fight and had marijuana, which officers found in the passenger-side door of Tinsley's car.

Mattox lives in New York and was planning to come to Indiana for a court hearing, said Roger Rayl, a spokesman for the Marion County prosecutor's office.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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