ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- As the forewoman finished reading the jury's verdict clearing Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney of all charges, McGraw wrapped Chesney in a bear hug and
wife Faith Hill wiped away a tear. The crowd in Orchard Park Town Court, near Buffalo,
disobeyed the judge's
orders and warmly applauded.
McGraw hugged his lawyer next, and, as his camp
to celebrate, he stared down Erie County
Sheriff Patrick Gallivan. Both had refused to back
down in the case, which
stemmed from a melee last June
during a George Strait Country Music Festival at Ralph Wilson
Stadium, near here.
and coolly, McGraw took a laminated copy of a
People magazine article in which the sheriff had
the star and walked toward Gallivan.
He tossed the article onto the lap of the sheriff, who
sat in the front row, one
row ahead of several
Hill, who flew through the night from Hawaii (where she had taken part in ceremonies
for the release of the movie Pearl Harbor, which features her new single) to be here,
telephoned her children and
McGraw. Chesney, seemingly unable to contain his relief,
flashed an even bigger smile than the one he had
while cracking jokes on the witness stand.
The biggest spectator crowd of the trial greeted the stars on
their way out
of the courtroom with raucous applause.
McGraw, overcome with relief, made his first statement outside the courtroom
the trial began.
"We have been waiting 11 months to have our day in
trial, we didn't want any plea bargain,
we wanted to
tell our story and tell the truth," he said. "The
justice system works. The people of Buffalo
wonderful to us, we have nothing against them. We'll
be back, we'll play music here and just appreciate
support. Justice prevails."
Said Chesney, "Tim and I told the truth for 11 months
and we sat tight, we kept
our lips shut, and we told
the truth this week, and the truth prevailed."
As for Buffalo fans, he said, "Tell
them not to worry.
We'll be back."
McGraw, Hill and Chesney then signed every last
their jubilation with their fans.
Then McGraw said "Thank you," and waved good-bye as he entered a waiting
with Hill, headed for the airport.
Scott Siman, McGraw's manager, said McGraw's lost concert dates due to this
"gone forever" but that all McGraw cared about was
clearing his name. McGraw elected to take the
day before and told the jury his
"character had been assassinated, a lot."
Having his day in
court was paramount to McGraw, Siman
"It was really important to him as a father, to show
kids that when you do the right thing, you can
stand and defend yourself and trust the system to work
In his closing argument Wednesday morning, McGraw's lawyer,
Thomas Eoannou said, "In about
a minute, I'm going to
ask you to set this circus down. That's the name of
Tim McGraw's last album. It was written about
Eoannou singled out Sheriff Gallivan and said the
trial was about protecting the image of
and the Erie County Sheriff's Department and about
making money for the two deputies who say
assaulted by McGraw. Both deputies testified that they
had talked with civil attorneys, and one had had McGraw
served with a lawsuit on their way into court Monday.
McGraw and Chesney were the real victims, Eoannou
you put on a badge and a blue suit does not
mean that you can hit people," he said, saying that
McGraw had every
right to intervene when the deputies
were pulling Chesney off a police horse because
McGraw was preventing Chesney from
falling onto the
McGraw admitted pushing a deputy but denied grabbing
him by the neck and refusing
to let go, as the deputy
In his closing argument, chief prosecutor Lou Hremski said that McGraw had
to charm him and asked the jury not to be
swayed by his congenial personality and celebrity.
McGraw did "what someone
with power does" and he stepped
in and took control without knowing the circumstances,
Hremski said. Propelled
by ego, McGraw "stepped
outside his little world," Hremski said. "When you do
that, you answer to us."
John M. Curran, who replaced the original judge
after he suffered a heart attack during the trial last week,
the jury that if McGraw was reasonably
justified in pushing a police officer, they must throw
out all charges.
the jury did so disappointed Sheriff Gallivan.
"I will never believe that someone, famous or not, can
hands on a police officer, push them or wrap
their arms around his neck while a police officer is
performing their duty,"
Gallivan said outside the trial, adding that the jury
"made the job of every police officer in Western New
much more difficult."
McGraw was acquitted of charges of misdemeanor
assault, obstruction of justice, harassment,
and resisting arrest. Chesney was cleared of
disorderly conduct, and former tour manager Mark Russo was
on all his charges.
"I think a performer gave a great performance,"
Gallivan said of McGraw.
sheriff condemned the stars' jovial behavior in
court, as well as Chesney's riding a horse onto the
calling it "an affront to law-abiding
citizens and law enforcement."
When asked about McGraw's tossing
the People magazine article at him, Gallivan said, "Tim McGraw did throw something at
me which I think is indicative
of the type of
individual that he is, and I don't think that his
behavior in court when he did that was any different
his reaction at Ralph Wilson Stadium on June 3."
McGraw answered no questions after making his
saying he "needed to go home to his kids." Mark Rokitka of the county sheriff's
department has filed a civil
lawsuit for personal
injury against McGraw, Chesney and Russo. McGraw has filed
a notice of claim to keep the option
of filing a
lawsuit against Erie County alive.