Suggs claims he was a peacemaker

Updated: June 15, 2005, 9:21 PM ET
Associated Press

PHOENIX -- Jurors in the assault trial of Baltimore Ravens' linebacker Terrell Suggs heard conflicting accounts Wednesday of the player's role in a fight two years ago outside a three-on-three basketball tournament.

Prosecutors said Suggs punched an old friend from high school and held another man while another friend used a piece of reinforced rod to strike him after the tournament at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

Suggs' attorney said his client played the role of peacemaker by putting his linebacker profile in between the two groups of men brawling outside the stadium.

The NFL player is charged with two counts of felony assault stemming from the fight on March 29, 2003. Suggs, who set an NCAA record with 24 sacks in 2002 at Arizona State University, was an NFL prospect at the time of the fight.

Also on trial were Suggs' younger brother, 18-year-old Donald Suggs, and two other men. Donald Suggs is accused of using a baseball bat during the fight.

During opening statements Wednesday, prosecutor Elizabeth Gilbert said Suggs and his friends surrounded and attacked a group of young men who were mouthing off at them.

"They didn't want to get into a fight because they were outsized and Donald had a bat," the prosecutor said.

Terrell Suggs' attorney, Larry Kazan, said his client only fought back after being hit in the head with a metal rebar rod.

"Terrell Suggs put himself in a position between all of them and attempted to act as the peacemaker," Kazan said. "All Terrell did was try to keep a fight from happening."

Kazan wasted no time trying to cast doubt on Suggs' accusers, telling jurors that Suggs' old high school friend had a felony conviction.

He also suggested money as a motive for the assault complaint, saying that Suggs' accusers delayed fully reporting the incident to police until they had gotten attorneys and threatened to seek millions in compensation from the NFL player in civil court.

Prosecutors had offered Suggs, his brother and the other two men a deal that involved no jail time, but the men rejected it. The deal, according to attorneys, would have required all four men to accept it.

"Obviously, they feel they're not guilty, and that's why we're here today," Gilbert said.

The case was expected to last about two weeks. Prosecutors said they would introduce pictures of the fight that were taken by a concession stand worker at the tournament.

Defense attorneys plan to call others who witnessed the fight along with football coaches from Suggs' high school, Arizona State and from the Ravens to testify about the player's character.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press