Sheriff Tells How Kenny Chesney's Lark Led to His and Tim McGraw's Arrest

"This has really generated a lot of interest," says Erie County Sheriff Patrick Gallivan, speaking by phone from his office in Buffalo, N.Y.

He's referring to the Saturday night (June 3) incident in which Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw and a member of McGraw's management team were cited on charges ranging from disorderly conduct to second-degree assault. The alleged offenses took place at Ralph Wilson Stadium near Buffalo after Chesney and McGraw had completed their opening performances for the George Strait Country Music Festival.

The melee started when Chesney asked permission to mount a horse belonging to one of the Erie County deputies on duty at the concert. Once in the saddle, witnesses say, Chesney rode away, ignoring orders to stop.

"When the deputy went to remove Chesney from the horse," Sheriff Gallivan reports, "another deputy was going to assist [him]. McGraw came and jumped the second deputy from behind, wrapped one arm around his neck and was choking him. Now I'm not suggesting he was trying to [really] choke him. But he had him with his arm around his neck, and he was holding on.

"Then that deputy needed assistance to get [McGraw] off. When the [third] deputy went to assist the one that McGraw had a choke-hold on, that's when [management representative Mark] Russo jumped in. So there was a little scuffle that ensued, and both the deputies sustained very minor injuries. But because they had sustained the injuries, the law in New York State says assaulting a police officer is a felony, regardless of the extent of the injuries -- from a minor bruise to lacerations and broken bones."

The actions took place, the sheriff explains, in an area at the stadium set aside for the performers and their crews but "not accessible to the public."

"Following the incident," Sheriff Gallivan continues, "the people involved were taken back to a command post we set up [at a local fire hall] when the stadium is in operation. From there, we took them maybe 10 or 15 miles to a town judge for an arraignment. [McGraw and Russo] were arraigned before the local magistrate and released on bail pending further court appearance. . . . Chesney was issued an appearance ticket and released [on] the scene."

The specific charges against McGraw, according to an Associated Press report, are second-degree assault, obstructing governmental administration, menacing and resisting arrest. His bail was $2,500. Chesney was cited for disorderly conduct and his bail set at $100. Russo, who works for McGraw's manager, RPM Management, was charged with obstructing governmental administration, harassment, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He was released on $500 bail.

Sheriff Gallivan says the three men cannot forfeit their bails and wipe the slate clean. "In New York, the purpose of bail is simply to secure their court appearance," he says. "The law requires them to appear personally. But in exceptional circumstances, the judge can allow their attorney to appear for them." Gallivan adds that he is not aware of alcohol being a factor in the incident.

McGraw, Chesney and Russo could not be reached for comment. A spokeswoman at McGraw's management office said attorneys for the singer were working on a statement which will be released later today.

Strait's festival tour wraps up this weekend with concerts Saturday at Texas Stadium in Dallas and Sunday at Enron Field in Houston.

McGraw begins a 40-date, co-headlining tour with his wife, Faith Hill, July 12 at Phillips Arena in Atlanta.

Also over the weekend, he received the "Father of the Year" award from the National Fatherhood Initiative, a non-profit, Maryland-based organization that establishes support programs for fathers and promotes responsible and committed fatherhood.

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