McDaniel facing felony assault

Updated: April 14, 2005, 12:10 AM ET
Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- A Knox County judge refused to reduce a felony assault charge against University of Tennessee defensive tackle Tony McDaniel on Wednesday.

A defense attorney asked that the charge be reduced to misdemeanor assault, but General Sessions Court Judge Chuck Cerny rejected that and sent the case to a grand jury.

McDaniel, a 6-foot-7, 295-pound sophomore from Columbia, S.C., was charged after a fight during a pickup basketball game on campus in January. He attended Wednesday's hearing but didn't speak.

A 26-year-old student, Edward Goodrich, testified that his face was broken in four places when McDaniel punched him, and that doctors had to insert a metal plate to treat his injuries.

McDaniel is one of 11 Tennessee football players who have been either arrested or cited for crimes ranging from aggravated assault to underage drinking since February 2004. Most of the charges are misdemeanors.

Two players were charged Tuesday with aggravated assault for their alleged roles in a different fight on campus in March. According to an affidavit released Wednesday, defensive end Robert Ayers told police he hit the alleged victim twice.

A witness and former Tennessee player told police he saw linebacker Jerod Mayo hit Shadiyah Murphy in the jaw. Coach Phillip Fulmer he believes Mayo has been misidentified.

Murphy, a fellow student, was knocked unconscious, and his jaw was broken.

McDaniel, who made his first career start for the Vols in the Cotton Bowl in December, has been suspended from the team since the fight.

Some of incident was caught on tape by a video camera at the university recreation center. Goodrich told the court it wasn't until he watched the tape at the UT police department that he learned what had happened to him.

Goodrich testified that the pickup game included players disputing many of the fouls called. He said he couldn't remember exactly what McDaniel said but it was something like, "The next person who fouls me, I'm going to lay them out."

The tape wasn't viewed in court, but Goodrich described it as showing him moving to try to block McDaniel's shot and then McDaniel hitting Goodrich on the right side of his face after the play was over.

"With no hesitation he strikes me," Goodrich said. "[Then] he stood over me for a split second."

Afterward, the tape showed McDaniel walking away, Goodrich said.

Goodrich refused to go to University of Tennessee Medical Center by ambulance because he thought he would have to pay for it. Instead, some of his friends drove him to the emergency room, he said.

McDaniel's attorney, Don Bosch, argued a felony was the wrong charge in the case because Goodrich's injuries were not severe enough compared to others he cited involving aggravated assault.

"Although the injuries are serious, they do not rise to felony levels," Bosch argued. "This was a pickup basketball game with one punch."

Cerny said he was disturbed to find Tennessee statutes on assaults were confusing, but he agreed aggravated assault was the correct charge based on Goodrich's testimony.

Court officials said it would take at least a week before the grand jury decides whether McDaniel should be indicted.

Meanwhile, Bosch said after the hearing he would continue to talk with Goodrich and his family to try to work out a settlement and avoid trial.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press