VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — Tennessee Titans wide receiver Justin Hunter's trial on misdemeanor charges arising from a July bar brawl has been pushed back to Sept. 15 so defense attorneys can try to produce a key witness.
Hunter attorney Toby Vick says the witness is the person who really punched a man outside a bar in Hunter's hometown on July 3, not Hunter as prosecutors contend.
The witness had been subpoenaed to show up to court on Tuesday as Hunter's trial on assault and battery was set to begin. The charge stems from a brawl that began inside a bar in the oceanfront tourist district of Virginia Beach. The fight led to a man's jaw being broken.
Prosecutors have previously said the brawl began after Hunter interrupted a conversation a man was having with someone else at the bar that night. After an exchange of words, Hunter punched the man in the face twice, according to prosecutors' statements in July. After a melee ensued and the bar was cleared, prosecutors contended the man Hunter originally punched was bent over and spitting blood on the sidewalk outside when Hunter "sucker punched" him again before leaving.
The man had to be taken to a hospital for treatment.
On Tuesday, Hunter's attorneys said the no-show witness had told a detective that it was he who punched the man outside of the bar. Hunter's attorneys said they subpoenaed the man and that they expected he would invoke his Fifth Amendment at trial so as not to incriminate himself if he were to appear at court. Hunter's attorneys had been seeking permission to allow the witnesses past statements to be admissible in court even without him there.
Prosecutor Wendy Alexander said the witness lives in the same neighborhood as Hunter's mother and suggested he is being offered up as a "fall guy" to take the blame for the victim's most serious injuries stemming from the fight. Before ruling whether previous statements by the witness could be admissible, Alexander suggested the court delay the trial to make sure he wasn't just stuck in traffic or sick.
Tennessee traded up six spots to draft the 6-foot-4, 207-pound Hunter out of the University of Tennessee in 2013 with the 34th pick overall. Hunter played in 14 games as a rookie, catching 18 passes for 354 yards and four touchdowns. He played 12 games before a season-ending injury in 2014 and finished with 28 receptions for 498 yards and three TDs.
Hunter was excused from practice Monday and Tuesday. He is expected to play Thursday night in the Titans' pre-season finale against Minnesota. The rescheduled trial date will be two days after the Titans open the season on Sept. 13 at Tampa Bay.
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Brock Vergakis can be reached at www.twitter.com/BrockVergakis