Former New Zealand Breakers star Corey Webster has been cleared of punching a man during a bar fight.
Source: 1 NEWS
The 28-year-old Tall Black has been on trial, accused of pulling a man's beard and hitting another at the Takapuna Bar in late November, while celebrating his birthday with friends.
But Judge Alit Singh dismissed the allegation of punching at the North Shore District Court today, saying there wasn't enough reliable evidence.
That assault charge has now been changed to only allege Webster grabbed a man's hoodie.
Joungmin Namkung, who tried to intervene in the brawl outside the bar, told the court he couldn't see who had punched him as he lay on the ground, and pointed the finger at a man in a red hat - when there was no evidence Webster was wearing a red hat - while another eye witness described a stocky man in shorts as the attacker, defence lawyer Fletcher Pilditch said.
"This cannot be my client," he said.
While prosecutor Farrukh Gul Qaisrani argued Mr Namkung had identified Webster to police afterwards, Judge Singh said the standard for identifying someone had to be "extremely high" and ruled the charge could not continue on the basis of the alleged punching.
But he ruled the charge could be changed to just alleged pulling of Mr Namkung's hood instead, despite protest by the defence it was too late in the trial and would prejudice the case.
The defence case will begin later on Thursday.
The host of an open mic event at the bar on the night, Michael Tilton, earlier told the court Webster had pulled his beard so hard clumps fell out.
In a police interview played to the court, Webster repeatedly denied ever assaulting anyone and said his fame was the reason he had been accused.
Constable Davide Mella said Webster was erratic when he was arrested shortly after the alleged assaulted, alternating between being verbally abusive and crying, and had accused officers of racism.
This month Webster helped the Wellington Saints win the New Zealand NBL championship, and has also signed on to play with the Dallas Mavericks for next month's NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.
He is due to play for the Perth Wildcats in the next Australian NBL season.
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