Conflicting reports offered in assault case involving UCLA's Nikola Dragovic

The basketball player pushed a man into a glass display case in a tussle at a concert, prosecutors say. The player's lawyer says the alleged victim was the aggressor and threatened that he had a knife

November 24, 2009|By David Wharton

While forward Nikola Dragovic remained suspended from the UCLA basketball team Monday night, sitting on the bench in street clothes, prosecutors and his attorney offered conflicting accounts of his arrest on suspicion of assault.

According to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, Dragovic got into a tussle at a Hollywood concert last month, pushing the alleged victim into a glass display case and causing a serious injury.

But Jon Artz, the player's lawyer, said the alleged victim pursued his client outside and threatened that he had a knife.

"He was the aggressor," Artz said of the man. "He was drinking heavily. He slapped Dragovic's roommate."

Police investigated for several weeks before arresting Dragovic and the roommate, Aleksandar Stanisic, on Friday. They have been charged with assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury.

Dragovic also was charged with an allegation of personally inflicting great bodily injury on the victim. Artz said he will plead not guilty to the charges.

The incident began when Stanisic argued with the man and his girlfriend during an Oct. 24 show at the Henry Fonda Theater, Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Michelle Dodd said in a news release.

After the Daniel Johnston concert, Dragovic allegedly rushed the victim and pushed him into the case, glass shattering and lacerating the victim's Achilles' tendon, prosecutors said.

As the two men were on the floor, Stanisic allegedly began punching the victim until security and bystanders broke up the fight, prosecutors said.

Artz countered that Dragovic had tried to leave the venue, but the victim followed him down from the third floor. Dragovic reported the incident to campus police and team officials shortly after it occurred.

The lawyer called the altercation "basically a bar fight" and said his client was "surprised, unpleasantly surprised" when charges were filed. At that point, Dragovic, accompanied by Coach Ben Howland, surrendered to Hollywood detectives and was released on bail.

It was Dragovic's second recent brush with the law. He was arrested last fall after a fight with a former girlfriend. The city attorney's office decided not to pursue that case but left open the possibility of revisiting it within a year.

On Monday, city attorney's spokesman Frank Mateljan said there was no indication the current charge would prompt action by prosecutors in his office.

Meanwhile, Artz -- a UCLA alumnus -- suggested the basketball team should consider reinstating Dragovic because "I don't think he was in the wrong."

Both defendants are scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 21.

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