McGraw May Tell His Side at Trial Wednesday or Thursday

The Erie County, N.Y., district attorney’s office was still presenting its case against Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney Wednesday morning (May 16) in the trial taking place in the Buffalo suburb of Orchard Park. A spokeswoman for McGraw’s attorney, Thomas J. Eoannou, told it was possible that McGraw would begin telling his side of the story to the jury by Wednesday afternoon or Thursday.

McGraw faces misdemeanor charges of assault, resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration and harassment for coming to Chesney’s defense during a backstage disturbance at the George Strait concert in Buffalo last June 3. McGraw became involved when deputies hired as security guards tried to remove Chesney from a deputy’s horse he says he had permission to ride. Chesney’s case, which involves only harassment charges, will be heard and settled by a judge. If McGraw is convicted, he could conceivably spend a year in jail. McGraw has been accompanied to court this week by his wife, singer Faith Hill , who has stirred as much media excitement as the trial principals.

Deputy Arthur Litzinger, of the Erie County Sheriff’s office, has testified that he suffered a back injury when McGraw seized him around the neck and threw him into a patrol car as he was attempting to pull Chesney from the horse. He said deputies repeatedly ordered Chesney to dismount but admitted under cross-examination that no one asked the singer if he had permission to be on the horse.

Donn Esmonde, a writer for The Buffalo News, portrays the continuing fray between McGraw and the sheriff’s department as a clash of egos. "The real crime," he says in his column Wednesday, "is against common sense. Misdemeanor charges go to trial as often as Faith Hill wears combat boots. Usually everybody calms down, works something out and goes home. Instead, everybody dug in his boot heels."

Esmonde notes that Hill has offered her husband some very photogenic support: "Minutes before the show kicked off Tuesday, she joined McGraw in a heartfelt embrace and lip lock in front of the courtroom. It wasn’t quite the spectacle of Al and Tipper [Gore] at the [2000 Democrat Party] convention, but it was pretty good for a sleepy Tuesday in Orchard Park."

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to