By ERIC OLSON, AP Sports Writer
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ New England Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was sentenced Thursday to 30 days in jail and two years of probation for assaulting a police officer outside a Lincoln bar last year.
In court, Dennard apologized to his coaches, supporters, police and his family and promised to abide by the terms of the probation. He declined comment after leaving court.
The jail sentence is set to begin next March. Dennard attorney Terry Dougherty said he would ask Lancaster County District Judge Stephanie Stacy to suspend the jail sentence if Dennard complies with the terms of his probation over the next 11 months. Stacy said she would consider such a motion at that time.
A jury in February found Dennard guilty of the felony charge and a misdemeanor count of resisting arrest. The former Nebraska player was acquitted of third-degree assault against another man. Dennard had faced up to five years in prison for the officer assault and up to a year for resisting arrest.
Dennard was arrested just after 2 a.m. on April 21. A police report said officers outside the bar witnessed a verbal altercation between Dennard and another person that appeared to be escalating before other people separated the two.
The officers approached the group and told Dennard twice he “needed to leave the area,” according to a police affidavit. The affidavit said Dennard was walking away when an officer saw him punch another man.
Officer Ben Kopsa then ran up to Dennard, told the football player he was under arrest and tried to handcuff him. Officers said Dennard pulled away, then punched Kopsa in the face. During his trial, Dennard acknowledged he may have resisted arrest, but denied punching the officer.
For Dennard’s sentencing, the court received letters attesting to the cornerback’s character from Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Nebraska coach Bo Pelini , among others.
Dougherty said he was disappointed with the sentence of jail time, noting that Dennard had been projected to be picked as high as the third round of the 2012 NFL draft before the police altercation. After the altercation, Dennard was picked in the seventh round _ a loss of $500,000 in earnings, Dougherty said.
Stacy noted Dennard’s lack of a prior criminal record but said she added jail time because she didn’t want to diminish the seriousness of Dennard’s offense. Stacy gave Dennard credit for three days served. She also ordered Dennard to perform 100 hours of community service.
Dougherty said NFL officials have told him that the league will not discipline Dennard, whose arrest came the week before the draft.
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