Thabo Sefolosha is the Swiss sports star of 2015
Swiss basketball star Thabo Sefolosha, who plays in the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the US, is a specialist defender on the court, and now, in a court of law.
Sefolosha, who was born and grew up in Vevey, was on Friday acquitted of three charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and obstruction after an altercation with New York city police which left him with a broken leg and unable to play in the NBA playoffs (finals).
The two-metre tall defender, aged 31, earns about $4 million per year playing for the Atlanta Hawks.
He told the court that he was attacked by police when he stopped to give a homeless man some money near a nightclub on April 8.
Sefolosha took the case to trial, declining an offer to drop all charges in exchange for one day of community service. He also decided to testify in his own defence, something many defendants avoid.
Sefolosha said that he had done nothing wrong and he wanted to use the trial to expose the arresting police officers for treating him in a racist way.
Sefolosha said he was followed by officer John Paul Giacona who said to him, “With or without a badge, I’m going to fuck you up and I can fuck you up.” Sefolosha claimed he was then attacked as he extended his arm to give money to a homeless person.
Here is some footage of the incident including a police baton blow to the Sefolosha’s leg.
“I think he saw a black man in a hoodie,” his lawyer said of the arresting officer Giacona. “They grab him, they pounce on him, they pull him limb from limb, they smash him on the ground.”
A similar incident involving US tennis player James Blake made international news. Blake was ‘slammed to the ground’ by a police officer in a case of mistaken identity in September this year.
Sefolosha made the following statement after the charges were dropped.
It's troubling to me that with so much evidence in my support that this case would even be brought to trial and that I had to defend myself so hard to get justice. It pains me to think about all of the innocent people who aren't fortunate enough to have the resources, visibility and access to quality legal counsel that I have had.
It was important to me as a man, a father to two young girls and as a role model, to stand up for what I believe in and have my name cleared of any wrongdoing.
Today's verdict will not make up for the pain and trauma my family and I have suffered over the past six months or bring back the opportunity to have played in the Eastern Conference Finals and have a shot at an NBA title, but it does bring me some peace and closes a painful chapter in my life.
The verdict allows the Swiss to file a civil law suit against the New York City Police department.
Sefolosha was selected in the NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2010. Here are some of the reasons why.
Sefalosha has earned about $26 million paying in the NBA during the last nine years. He played in the Swiss junior team and for Vevey Riviera Basket. He played in France and Italy before moving to the US where he joined the Chicago Bulls (2006-2009) then Oklahoma City Thunder (2009–2014) and joined the Atlanta Hawks in 2014.