Carolina Panthers

Bridges found guilty; will appeal

CHARLOTTE -- Carolina Panthers guard Jeremy Bridges was found guilty Tuesday on one count of assault by pointing a gun, although his lawyer immediately filed an appeal.

"This is one judge's decision, based on what he heard," Bridges said upon leaving the courtroom. "I know I'm not guilty in this whole situation. That's why we're going to appeal and let 12 people decide."

Bridges was arrested following an altercation outside a South Charlotte night club on July 26 (the day before players reported to training camp) and was later suspended two games by the team.

Tuesday, District Court judge Tom Moore sentenced Bridges to a 60-day suspended sentence, one year of unsupervised probation, ordered him to perform 60 hours of community service, pay a $500 fine and court costs and surrender the handgun.

Bridges' attorney, George Laughrun, immediately filed an appeal, with a jury trial expected in February or March.

There was over an hour of testimony at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, with two distinctly different versions of the story coming to light.

The accuser, Chevella Coleman, said Bridges pointed the gun at her and threatened her following an incident in the parking lot of Club Onyx. She worked there as an entertainer and had a relationship of some sort with a man referred to in court as Bridges' brother.

Bridges admitted he didn't approve of his friend Darrell Bennett (they aren't related, rather college friends from Southern Mississippi) hanging out with Coleman, which sparked the incident.

Bridges admitted he went back to his limousine for a gun as the argument between Coleman and Bennett escalated "because I was in fear for my brother's life."

Bennett and Taye Biddle, the former Panthers wide receiver now on Tampa Bay's practice squad, testified that Bridges never pointed the gun, but held it behind his back as he tried to get Bennett back into their hired car.

"Her people, everything was backward, chopped up and twisted," Bridges said of the prosecution testimony. "There was no visual evidence."

Neither Coleman nor any of her supporters wanted to talk to reporters after the verdict, with a woman covering Coleman's face as they hustled down the sidewalk.

Coleman's witnesses were an eclectic group, including her uncle Michael Fowler, who took the stand wearing a sleeveless black evening dress with a gold belt and high-heeled shoes, with long, flowing hair and a "Mike Mike" tattoo visible on his muscular right bicep.

"Is it Mister Fowler, or Miss Fowler?" Laughrun asked as Fowler took the stand, before Fowler huffed, "Mister."

Also testifying was a woman who identified herself as Coleman's "ex-girlfriend, just a friend now," who is four months pregnant.

The team decided to suspend Bridges without pay for two games, but no further punishment is expected.

"As you're aware, following this incident, the club suspended Jeremy for two games for conduct detrimental," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said in a statement. "At the league level, the personal conduct policy also applies, and we have been informed that the NFL will review this matter."