By Bill Sloat
Cincinnati (Reuters) - Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Rey Maualaga pleaded not guilty Friday to a charge of punching a downtown bar manager in the face.
Maualaga, 25, was charged with misdemeanor assault. His attorney filed a written plea on his behalf with the Hamilton County Municipal Court.
Maualaga, a former star at the University of Southern California, is accused of slugging Luxe bar manager Sammy Laham around 2:30 a.m. on February 5. Police said the charge "is based on Mr. Maualaga punching victim in the face causing injury."
Maualaga has had a run-in with the law before. In 2010, he pleaded guilty to drunk driving charges in Northern Kentucky, the community directly across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. His driver's license was suspended and he attended a substance abuse program, according to local media reports.
Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Heather Russell did not set a trial date in the assault case. She scheduled city prosecutors and defense lawyer Edward Perry to meet with her March 8 for a pre-trial, a session where cases frequently are settled.
Neither Maualaga nor his lawyer could be reached for comment.
In addition to court action in Cincinnati, he could also face NFL suspension under the league's personal conduct policy. Jack Brennan, a Bengals spokesman, said the team would not comment while the court case was pending.
(Reporting by Bill Sloat; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Paul Thomasch)