- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2006

A Duke University lacrosse player accused of raping an exotic dancer stood trial in D.C. Superior Court yesterday for an assault on two men in Georgetown last year.

Collin Finnerty, 19, of Garden City, N.Y., is accused of a misdemeanor simple assault stemming from an altercation outside the Daily Grill restaurant on Wisconsin Avenue Northwest on Nov. 5.

During testimony before Judge John H. Bayly Jr., one of the reported assault victims — Jeff Bloxsom, 27 — said Mr. Finnerty and at least two friends followed him and his friend on Wisconsin Avenue from the bar, Third Edition, where the dispute began.

Mr. Bloxsom told the court that Mr. Finnerty helped instigate the fight by pushing him and calling him homosexual epithets and other derogatory names, but that Mr. Finnerty was not the one who hit him.

“He was directly in my face, pointing in my face, talking,” Mr. Bloxsom testified. “I’m walking ahead and he’s directly behind me in my ear.”

Mr. Bloxsom’s friend, Scott Herndon, 27, testified that once the group reached the Daily Grill, he tried to stop Mr. Finnerty from hitting Mr. Bloxsom. Then, Mr. Herndon said, he was hit “a dozen times in a matter of seconds.”

Mr. Bloxsom said he suffered a cut lip and a bruised chin in the scuffle before police arrived. An officer apprehended Mr. Finnerty and the two others after they fled onto nearby N Street.

Mr. Finnerty’s defense attorney, Steven McCool, said the accusers had been drinking and that Mr. Finnerty had been struck first in the fight.

“Isn’t it true that your shirt was torn when they were pulling you off Collin Finnerty?” Mr. McCool asked Mr. Herndon during cross-examination.

“No,” Mr. Herndon replied.

“Isn’t it true that you punched Collin Finnerty?”

“No,” Mr. Herndon replied, before Mr. McCool showed him a photograph showing Mr. Finnerty with a mark on his chin.

Mr. McCool said Mr. Finnerty has been named the instigator in the case because his accusers have seen him on television in relation to the Duke rape case. In that case, Mr. Finnerty and two other lacrosse players are accused of raping a dancer at an off-campus party on March 13.

“When you came here today, pointing to this man and attributing that language to him, it’s pretty easy to do, isn’t it?” Mr. McCool asked Mr. Bloxsom.

The defense called character witnesses, including the Rev. James C. Williams, Mr. Finnerty’s principal at Chaminade High School in Mineola, N.Y. Father Williams said Mr. Finnerty was “peaceful, nonviolent and a true gentleman.”

The defense also called William Gerrish, former captain of the Duke lacrosse team, who testified that he witnessed the scuffle from about a block away and saw Mr. Finnerty being hit first.

But prosecutors said Mr. Gerrish told investigators earlier that he had never seen Mr. Finnerty get hit. Mr. Gerrish also said Mr. Finnerty was “fired up” during the incident.

“Collin was persistent in this, but he wasn’t leading the charge,” Mr. Gerrish testified. “He was with his friends and he wanted to see what was going to happen.”

The others arrested in the Georgetown assault case — Daniel R. D’Agnes and Patrick A. Bonanno, former high school lacrosse teammates of Mr. Finnerty’s — have entered a diversion program, officials said.

Mr. Finnerty also had entered a diversion program that would have allowed him to avoid the assault trial, but the agreement was rescinded because of his arrest in the Duke case.

If convicted in the D.C. case, Mr. Finnerty faces up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.

The bench trial is expected to conclude today.

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