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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Gerrard cleared of bar room attack

LIVERPOOL, England (AP) England midfielder Steven Gerrard was cleared Friday of intentionally attacking a man in a bar in a dispute over music.

The jury at Liverpool Crown Court cleared the Liverpool captain of affray, accepting the player's explanation that he acted in self defense in punching businessman Marcus McGee at the Lounge Inn bar on Dec. 29.

"Can I just say how pleased I am with today's verdict," Gerrard said outside the court. "I'm glad to put this case behind me and I am really looking forward to the season ahead and concentrating on my football now.

"I would just like to say a big thank you to my legal team and to my friends and family and everyone at Liverpool Football Club for supporting me."

The 29-year-old Gerrard was the only one of seven defendants to be cleared over the incident, which was described as an "explosion of violence" by the judge.

Gerrard showed no emotion when the jury foreman delivered the not guilty verdict after 70 minutes of deliberation.

"The verdict is a credible verdict on the full facts of this case," Judge Henry Globe told Gerrard. "You walk away from this court with your reputation intact."

Gerrard was celebrating in the Southport bar near Liverpool after scoring twice in his team's 5-1 win at Newcastle. He was with a party of friends, including former Liverpool manager and player Kenny Dalglish.

Video footage from the bar showed Gerrard and his friends drinking beer, downing spirits and dancing while chanting soccer songs. But trouble flared at around 2 a.m. when Gerrard wanted to change the music on the CD player.

The 34-year-old McGee said Gerrard had tried to grab a music card from him after being refused control of the device.

Gerrard admitted throwing three punches but said only one connected. He said he only swung at McGee because he thought he was about to be attacked himself.

"What at first sight to the casual observer may seem to have been a clear-cut case against you of unlawful violence, has been nowhere near as clear-cut upon careful analysis of the evidence," Globe said.

The judge suggested it was unwise of Gerrard to approach McGee to resolve the earlier "trivial disagreement."

"You did not start the violence, it was started by the violent elbowing of Marcus McGee in the face by one of your friends, John Doran," Globe said. "The victim's consequential actions of reeling backwards and then forwards and your actions in response to that movement forward has to be seen against that background.

"At all times you insisted that you only ever acted in what you believed was reasonable self defense to what you understandably, albeit you accept mistakenly, believed was an attempted attack upon you by Marcus McGee."

Five other men have already pleaded guilty in the incident and another admitted a lesser charge of threatening behavior.

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