Witness denies assault allegations Friday in court

Updated: August 3, 2007, 7:50 PM ET
Associated Press

GREELEY, Colo. -- A witness in the trial of a college football player accused of trying to kill a teammate took the stand Friday and denied a defense lawyer's allegation that it was the witness, not the defendant, who was the attacker.

Kevin Aussprung
AP Photo/ Bret HartmanKevin Aussprung testifies Friday in Greeley, Colo. Aussprung is a witness in the trial of Mitch Cozad, a college football player accused of stabbing a teammate.
Asked by the prosecutor if he stabbed Northern Colorado punter Rafael Mendoza, Kevin Aussprung said loudly, "No, I did not.''

Aussprung testified in the trial of Mitch Cozad, a former backup punter at Northern Colorado who is charged with attempted first-degree murder and second-degree assault in a knife attack on Mendoza.

Police and prosecutors say Cozad, of Wheatland, Wyo., attacked Mendoza in a parking lot outside Mendoza's apartment in a bid to take over the starter's job. Mendoza suffered a deep cut in his kicking leg but later returned to the team.

Aussprung, of Waukesha, Wis., is a student at Northern Colorado and lived in the same dormitory as Cozad.

Aussprung has said he was with Cozad that night and that Cozad offered him money to watch his car. Earlier in the trial, defense attorney Joseph Gavaldon claimed it was Aussprung who stabbed Mendoza.

Aussprung testified he was "scared for my life'' after the trip with Cozad. He said Cozad left the car after they got to the parking lot and ran back 15 or 20 minutes later saying, "We have to get out of here.''

"He seemed like he was in a hurry and that something went wrong with whatever he was doing,'' Aussprung said.

He said Cozad put something in a white plastic garbage bag and then they sped out of the parking lot with Cozad at the wheel. They stopped outside a liquor store, and at Cozad's direction, he helped peel tape off the car's license plates, Aussprung said.

Aussprung said Cozad did not tell him what happened, and he did not ask.

"No, I did not want to know,'' Aussprung said. "I was just scared. I wanted to get out of there.''

Cozad later told Aussprung not to tell anyone they were together that night and to contact him only in person, not by phone, Aussprung said.

Aussprung said he surmised what had happened when he saw in the newspaper the next day that Mendoza had been stabbed.

Asked why he didn't call police, Aussprung said, "I put two and two together, and I was there, and thought I'd get in trouble for being there.''

They told me your client was trying to frame me, and I gave them everything they wanted.

-- Witness Kevin Aussprung,
to the defense attorney about conversations with police

Under cross-examination by Gavaldon, Aussprung said that when police first questioned him, he denied being with Cozad that night. He said he changed his story when officers told him Cozad had accused him of stabbing Mendoza.

"They told me your client was trying to frame me, and I gave them everything they wanted,'' Aussprung said.

Aussprung has not been charged with any crime and testified he had not been offered anything for his testimony.

His attorney, Bill Crosier, said outside the courtroom Friday he does not believe Aussprung will face charges but said there are no guarantees.

"He has no immunity, no promises,'' Crosier said.

Colorado juries are allowed to ask questions during a trial through the judge, and for the second day in a row Friday, they asked about black clothing that police said they found in Cozad's room after the attack.

Mendoza has said the attacker was wearing all black, including a hooded sweatshirt cinched up around the face so only the eyes were visible. A liquor store clerk also has testified that he saw two black-clad men with a car, later traced to Cozad's mother, on the night of the attack.

Earlier Friday, Jan LeMay, a criminalist with a Greeley forensics lab, testified his tests found no blood on Cozad's car.

A former police detective has testified that the clothing found in Cozad's room included a black hooded Adidas sweat shirt with white stripes on the sleeves.

Responding to a jury question Thursday, the ex-detective said neither Mendoza nor the liquor store clerk mentioned white stripes on the sweat shirt.

Responding to the jury's question Friday, Aussprung said he could not identify a black sweat shirt with white stripes that had been entered as evidence.

Aussprung was asked by Gavaldon on Friday if he was coming forward to testify against Cozad because he was "a good citizen'' and because he was "scared for your life.''

"Scared right now?'' Aussprung answered with a terse response. "Not my life, just scared that your client is trying to accuse me of doing something.''

Aussprung said he'd never met Mendoza and didn't know what he looked like.

Prosecutor Michele Meyer asked him if he had any reason to dislike Mendoza or want to hurt him.

"Not at all,'' Aussprung said.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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