Thursday, May 19, 2011
Linebacker Jon Beason wins civil trial
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers linebacker Jon Beason won a civil suit Thursday brought by a man who accused the three-time Pro Bowl pick of punching him in the face at a Charlotte strip club.
After five hours of deliberations over two days, the jury of eight women and four men determined Beason did not strike Gregory Frye nearly two years ago. The jury also ruled Frye slandered Beason and awarded Beason $1 in damages.
"It was fair. It's been a long time coming, almost two years," Beason said outside the Mecklenburg County Courthouse. "The thing for us people in the public eye, once somebody says something, a percentage of people are going to believe it. That's the thing that was the most troubling, to sleep with.
"Hopefully, this will be blown up the same way it was when it happened and people will have their normal impression of me," he said.
The suit stemmed from a November 2009 incident at the Uptown Cabaret, hours after Carolina beat the Atlanta Falcons at nearby Bank of America Stadium.
The 26-year-old Beason testified during the weeklong trial he confronted Frye for telling other patrons he once saw Beason snorting cocaine at a party. Beason, who says he's never used illegal drugs or failed an NFL drug test, said he attempted to take a swing at Frye but was held back by friends and didn't hit him.
Frye testified an "enraged" Beason broke his nasal cavity and produced photographs and medical bills.
Frye got a magistrate to issue an arrest warrant for Beason while police were still investigating the case. The 30-year-old Frye then filed a civil suit the next day seeking more than $10,000 in damages.
Prosecutors later dropped the criminal case saying they lacked evidence, while the civil suit went forward. Beason's attorney, George Laughrun, said it was simply an effort by Frye to score a payday.
"It was about a check," Beason said.
The jury, which was charged to decide whether the battery occurred and if damages should be awarded, sided with the 2007 first-round pick from Miami. Beason's legal team only asked for $1 in damages while pursuing the slander claim.
"It was never about the money, man," Beason said. "It was about justice and I'm glad I got that today."
Beason and Frye showed little emotion when the verdict was read. The 30-year-old Frye declined comment as he left the courthouse.
"Hopefully, he'll learn a lesson, too, here," Beason said of Frye. "I wish him well, and that's probably all I want to say."
A smiling Beason, who was accompanied by his mother, Terry, in court, said his focus will now shift to football. Beason, who has led Carolina in tackles the past four seasons, said teammates Jordan Gross and Travelle Wharton are scheduling two weeks of workouts in Charlotte starting May 31 while the NFL lockout remains in effect.
"There's a lot of lessons to be learned here," Beason said. "When you react a certain way you can definitely get yourself in trouble. The places you go, a lot of times they make different outcomes of stuff like this. I think I'm more mature because of it."