Bengals cut Nicholson; woman now claims he never hit her

Updated: May 22, 2007, 12:50 PM ET
Associated Press

A.J. Nicholson


COVINGTON, Ky. -- Linebacker A.J. Nicholson was waived by the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday, hours after he pleaded not guilty to a charge that he hit his girlfriend. She insists she accidentally hit herself with a cell phone, and police misread what happened.

Nicholson was charged with misdemeanor assault Friday, and despite his girlfriend's claim the case will go forward. He remains free on $5,000 bond and a pretrial hearing was set for May 31.

Nicholson was a fifth-round draft pick from Florida State in 2006 but played in only two games because of a hamstring injury.

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His arrest was the first of a Bengals player since NFL commissioner Roger Goodell cracked down on misconduct last month. He already was one of nine Bengals players arrested during a nine-month span.

Outside court, Victoria Johnson said Nicholson never hit her. She says she got a mark under her eye when she grabbed a cell phone from Nicholson so hard she struck herself with the phone.

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"I was very emotional and I was mad at A.J.," Johnson said. "Like a lot of other couples, we had been arguing. But I am to blame here. I exaggerated the situation. The police officer misinterpreted my upset and emotional demeanor."

In March, Nicholson pleaded no contest to burglary and grand theft in Tallahassee, Fla., and was sentenced to two months in a work program. He had been charged with stealing electronic equipment and other items from the apartment of a former Florida State teammate.

Nicholson was suspended for Florida State's appearance in the 2006 Orange Bowl after he violated team policy by taking a woman to the team's hotel in Miami.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press