- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A D.C. Superior Court judge yesterday convicted a Duke University lacrosse player of misdemeanor assault stemming from a fight in Georgetown last year.

Judge John Bayly Jr. sentenced Collin Finnerty, 19, of Garden City, N.Y. — one of three Duke lacrosse players accused in the unrelated rape of an exotic dancer in Durham, N.C. — to 30 days in jail, which he suspended, and six months probation.

Mr. Finnerty will be evaluated for drug and alcohol counseling. The judge also ordered him to pay $500 in court costs and stay away from the Georgetown area and any establishment serving alcohol unless he is with his parents during the probation period.

The conviction came after two days of testimony that offered differing accounts of the Nov. 5 incident, which began with a dispute at the Georgetown bar Third Edition and ended after a scuffle outside the Daily Grill restaurant.

“The defendant and his friends were looking for a fight, and they would not be deterred,” prosecutor George Varghese said during his closing argument. Mr. Finnerty “was undeniably aiding and encouraging his friends. In fact, he was instigating this event.”

Judge Bayly said he based his finding on the testimony of victim Jeffrey Bloxsom, 27, who said Mr. Finnerty and two friends harassed him and his friend by pushing him, calling him homosexual epithets and throwing fake punches at the pair during a walk up Wisconsin Avenue.

“The defendant menaced him with his fists,” the judge said. “It’s my belief that [Mr.] Bloxsom was trying to get away, and he couldn’t.”

Yesterday, Mr. Finnerty’s friends who also were charged in the case — Daniel R. D’Agnes and Patrick A. Bonanno — testified that Mr. Finnerty was hit first in the fight and did not throw a punch.

“Mr. Finnerty dropped to the floor, and that’s when I ran over to him” outside the Daily Grill, said Mr. Bonanno, 20. “He got hit in the back of the head [and] they jumped on top of him.”

Mr. Bonanno said that he challenged Mr. Bloxsom’s friend, Scott Herndon, to a fight and hit Mr. Bloxsom after seeing Mr. Bloxsom and Mr. Herndon standing over Mr. Finnerty.

Mr. Finnerty did not speak during the trial, except to say “Yes, your honor” to Judge Bayly when asked if he understood the right to appeal his conviction.

His defense attorney, Steven McCool, said he would appeal the conviction but called the sentence “very fair and lenient.” He said Mr. Finnerty’s record will be expunged under the Youth Rehabilitation Act if he meets the terms of his probation.

“Specifically, what his honor found was that Collin threw fake punches,” Mr. McCool said. “That’s the full extent of his honor’s findings.”

Mr. Bonanno and Mr. D’Agnes, former high school lacrosse teammates of Mr. Finnerty’s, have entered a diversion program allowing them to avoid a trial, 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 North Carolina case.

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