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Archive for Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Giddens charged in bar brawl

Former Kansas University basketball player accused of battery, disorderly conduct

August 31, 2005

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He has been charged with battery and disorderly conduct.

But former Kansas University basketball player J.R. Giddens didn't throw the first punch the night of the now-infamous brawl at a Lawrence bar.

That's according to Douglas County's prosecutor, who Tuesday filed misdemeanor charges against Giddens and another man in connection with the May 19 closing-time melee at the Moon Bar, 821 Iowa.

The charges come after a three-month investigation and interviews with more than 50 witnesses - but they fall far short of settling exactly what happened that night.

The list of witnesses who could be called to testify in court includes seven current or former Kansas University basketball players.

Giddens, 20, and four other people suffered injuries in the bar's parking lot from a knife allegedly wielded by 24-year-old Jeremiah Creswell, of Olathe. Dist. Atty. Charles Branson said the police investigation supported witnesses' accounts that the brawl happened when Giddens and a group of men attacked Creswell outside the bar.

Self-defense

The knife wounds Creswell inflicted on Giddens and the other men appeared to have been in self-defense, Branson said. Creswell was not charged with any crimes related to the knife injuries he inflicted.

Moon Bar fight

But Branson alleges Creswell committed misdemeanor battery earlier in the night when he punched Giddens inside the bar. That account fits with a version eyewitnesses told The Journal-World in June - but now is being disputed by a former manager of the bar, which has since closed.

"There's two incidents," Branson said. "The first incident in time, Creswell battered Giddens. The second incident in time, Giddens - in addition to committing disorderly conduct - battered Creswell."

Ron Ruiz, a former manager of the Moon Bar, said he saw Creswell being kicked out of the bar after the confrontation indoors. He said he doubted a punch was thrown.

"They pushed each other a little bit," he said. "If Creswell would have punched him indoors, he would have been rushed by a million athletes."

Branson repeatedly declined to talk about details of what started the confrontation between Giddens and Creswell - or about what Giddens said and did outside the bar. Disorderly conduct often means "engaging in conduct that instigated a fight," he said.

Giddens issued a prepared statement Tuesday, calling the incident "an experience I will remember the rest of my life."

"I learned a lot from what happened that evening, and I feel I am a better person because of it," the statement read.

Others not charged

Despite eyewitness reports that other men were involved in attacking Creswell outside the bar - estimates have ranged from four up to 10 or more - no one else has been charged. Branson said the case remained under investigation, and more charges could be filed if additional details came out during trial.

"I would say we believe that there are potentially more people that are responsible for attacking Creswell, and there may be potentially additional victims of Creswell outside," Branson said. "These things are at the minimum of what we believe we have clear enough evidence to file charges on right now."

When asked whether he was concerned some people involved might go unpunished, Branson said, "There probably is some fear of that."

Former basketball player Bryant Nash was quoted as telling The Kansas City Star that he had punched Creswell. When asked about that, Branson said there must be witnesses for charges to stand up in court.

"It's hard to find credible witnesses that can say, 'Yes, I saw x hit y.' That's where the difficulty comes in," he said.

But he said he would not talk about the content of police interviews.

Self responds

KU basketball coach Bill Self said the charges spoke for themselves and declined to comment further.

"We have put this situation behind us," he said.

Ruiz said he believed Giddens and Creswell were getting off easy. Misdemeanors typically are punished by probation with a maximum penalty of no more than a year in jail.

"For as much negative publicity as it brought the University of Kansas ... it just made the whole program look bad," Ruiz said.

The Moon Bar closed earlier this month, Ruiz said.

Other current or former basketball players listed on the criminal complaint as witnesses are C.J. Giles, Jeff Hawkins, Darnell Jackson, Michael Lee, Aaron Miles, Nash and Rodrick Stewart.

Giddens, an Oklahoma City native, since has transferred to the University of New Mexico. Creswell is in the Johnson County Jail awaiting sentencing in an unrelated assault case.

In lieu of arrests, Creswell and Giddens were issued summons to appear in court Sept. 21.

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