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Witness denies assault allegations Friday in court

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.

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.''

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.