ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The trial of country star Tim McGraw took a strange turn Thursday (May 17) when the judge hearing his case suffered a heart attack, forcing the court to adjourn before the day's proceedings got underway.
Justice Edmund S. Brown had difficulty breathing and was rushed to Buffalo's Mercy Hospital around 9:45
a.m. ET. As of Thursday afternoon, Brown was in critical condition, a hospital spokesperson said.
If doctors say Brown
cannot continue to preside over the case, it will end in a mistrial because judges cannot be replaced once a trial begins.
Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark said that if need be, he would push for a retrial as soon as possible.
extended delay would "put a huge strain" on McGraw and on Kenny Chesney,
Chesney's lawyer, Leonard E. Krawczyk, said, since they are from out of town and have careers to tend to. The two are accused
of tangling with a pair of sheriff's deputies who were trying to get Chesney to dismount a horse he was riding at the George
Strait Music Festival in June.
Lawyers from both sides said their primary concern is Brown's health. "Our thoughts
and prayers are with His Honor," said Michael J. McHale, assistant district attorney.
Paramedics pushed Brown
on a stretcher past dozens of fans who had come to see Chesney, McGraw and his wife, Faith
An extended delay or retrial could also cause one of the prosecution's key witnesses to juggle her court
dates. Sharlene Turner, who was tending to the horse Chesney mounted, faces sentencing Wednesday for a felony conviction of
scheming to defraud. Turner has pled guilty to stealing personal information to obtain credit cards. Her sentencing had already
been rescheduled until after the McGraw trial.
McGraw is charged with misdemeanor assault, resisting arrest, obstruction
of governmental administration and menacing. Chesney, who maintains Turner gave him permission not only to mount the horse
but also to ride it, is charged with disorderly conduct. Mark Russo, a former manager, is charged with misdemeanor obstruction
of governmental administration, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.
Turner testified on Wednesday that she did
not give Chesney permission to ride the horse, only to mount it. Erie County Sheriff's Deputies Arthur Litzinger and Mark
Rokitka testified that Chesney refused orders to dismount. The deputies claim McGraw attacked Litzinger when he was pulling
Chesney down off the horse.
If convicted, McGraw could spend up to a year in jail. He was originally charged with felony
assault, punishable by up to seven years in jail. The charge was later reduced.