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UCLA REPORT

Guard Lehmann Suspended

September 04, 2002|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Another day, another rationalization offered by UCLA coaches for another fight involving a player.

Junior guard Shane Lehmann pleaded no contest Tuesday to a misdemeanor battery charge stemming from an incident that occurred in May outside Madison's Neighborhood Grill, the same Westwood establishment where cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. got into a fight in April that resulted in felony charges.

The 6-foot-5, 285-pound Lehmann, who started five games last season and is currently second-string behind Steve Vieira, was charged with felony battery and agreed to the no contest plea instead of going to trial. He was sentenced to three years probation and 30 days of community service.

In keeping with team policy, Coach Bob Toledo suspended Lehmann for Saturday's opener against Colorado State because of the conviction. However, the coach's explanation of events made it curious that Lehmann pleaded no contest, which is the equivalent of a guilty plea in criminal court.

"The guy threw a punch and [Shane] threw a punch back," Toledo said. "I believe there was an [off-duty] sheriff there who saw the incident and said Shane was innocent."

A manager at Madison's said that Lehmann had been employed as a bouncer but had resigned before the night of the incident, which occurred in an adjacent parking lot after Lehmann, 21, and an employee had escorted someone from the bar.

Neither UCLA nor Madison's would divulge the identity of the victim or the nature of his injuries. Lehmann, who was cited two years ago for using false identification, was not made available for comment. His attorney, William A. Bartz, did not return calls.

Lehmann has a groin injury and was listed as questionable for the opener, raising the question of whether the suspension was meaningful. But Toledo said trainers had cleared Lehmann to play.

"He was questionable anyway, but now he's suspended," Toledo said. "We've got 100-and-something football players and 100 of them are doing a darn good job. We are preparing to play a football game and aren't going to be distracted."

Three players, however, have pending court dates pertaining to fights. Manning, a two-time All-Pacific 10 Conference selection, will be arraigned Sept. 17 on felony assault charges and could face 11 years in prison.

Junior defensive end Asi Faoa has been convicted of misdemeanor assault and was sentenced a year ago to 180 days in jail. He has yet to serve the time and will appear in court Sept. 11 to arrange work furlough.

Freshman defensive end C.J. Niusulu faces felony battery charges for allegedly punching an employee at a drive-in theater in his hometown of Barstow in July.

In addition, senior linebacker Audie Attar was dismissed from the team during the summer after punching the younger brother of former Bruin quarterback Scott McEwan at Westwood Brewing Company.

Toledo said he has banned players from Madison's and forbade them from working anywhere as bouncers.

"That's a great idea," senior tackle Mike Saffer said. "No one needs to work as a bouncer and put themselves in harm's way. And nobody should be going to a place like that during the season for any reason.

"Shane did hit somebody and he has to be accountable. It's obviously disturbing that there have been so many fights. But it's important to remember that both Shane and Ricky did this last spring. We've known about it and both of them were punished by our coaches at the time."

Bruin players and coaches just hope this is the last violent incident associated with the team.

"To my knowledge, this is it," Toledo said. "There is nothing else that I am aware of."

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