by: Jim Bradley Updated:CHARLOTTE, N.C. —
Panthers Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy has been found guilty of assaulting a female and communicating threats.
Mecklenburg County Judge Rebecca Thorn-Tin on Tuesday sentenced Hardy to 18 months' probation. A 60-day jail sentence was suspended.
Hardy's attorney Chris Fialko says he'll appeal and Hardy has asked for a jury trial in superior court. That means the terms of Hardy's probation are on hold until the trial — so he's free to travel with the team to training camp and compete in games.
A date for the jury trial hasn't been set.
The Panthers released a statement Tuesday night saying, "We have just learned of the verdict and are respectful of the process. We do not have a comment at this time."
Hardy and his agent Drew Rosenhaus refused to comment as they left the courtroom together.
The judge didn't buy Hardy's testimony that he was the one abused by the accuser and asked her to leave his apartment during a domestic dispute on May 13 at his downtown Charlotte condominium.
After nearly 11 hours of hearing testimony, Thorn-Tin told a somber Hardy that "the court is entirely convinced Hardy is guilty of assault on a female and communicating threats."
In court Tuesday Hardy said he met the accuser, Nicole Holder, when he was dating her roommate. He went on to say he broke up with her during the Pro Bowl.
After that, Hardy went into his description of what happened the night of the alleged assault.
He said in court, that he never wanted to be around Holder the evening of May 12. He said every time he tried to open the door to leave during the argument, Holder would slam the door.
Hardy said Holder balled up her first, started swinging and threatened to beat him up. He described tantrum-like behavior of his ex-girlfriend the night of the dispute.
The Panthers’ player said Holder hit him in the face. “I never expected her to go that far,” he testified. Hardy said he is not a violent person.
Hardy said Holder told him he would have to break her arm when he asked her to leave. He said he never threw her in a bath tub or futon, nor did he choke her or threaten to kill her.
Holder told police that Hardy beat her up in his uptown apartment during a fight. Hardy’s attorney said it was the girlfriend, Holder, who was the aggressor.
The judge ordered Hardy to stay away from Holder and to turn over his guns after his arrest.
Earlier in court Tuesday, a CMPD officer who responded to the assault testified he saw one gun in Hardy’s apartment.
An Epicentre public safety officer took the witness stand to testify about a previous fight between Holder and Hardy that occurred two days before.
The officer said Holder ignored instructions to step away and the defense claimed she kicked Hardy’s car door.
The witness also said Holder was “ranting and raving” at Hardy during the previous fight.
The next witness to take the stand was a CMPD officer who works Epicentre security.
The officer said Holder was upset.
In court, the defense argued Holder was aggressive towards Hardy at the Epicentre two nights before the attack. The defense also said the fight started because Hardy wouldn’t take her home.
The next witness to take the stand was one of Holder’s Suite nightclub co-workers.
Following that, the judge listened to the 911 call from the night of the alleged assault. The judge did not play it for the rest of the courtroom.
Hardy’s friend testified that Holder said, “I am going to get Greg to pay my rent tonight.”
Hardy’s business manager said Holder was irate.
Earlier in the day after lunch, Holder was called to testify in the courtroom and said the relationship between them started “wonderful at first, then controlling and manipulative.”
Holder said on the night of the assault, she and a friend were invited to Hardy’s apartment.
Hardy later became angry when champagne was accidentally spilled in the kitchen, according to Holder.
Hardy and Holder then went to the Epicentre bar Bubble and ran up a $2,000 bill. While they were there, a song by the rapper Nelly started playing, Holder testified.
Holder had a brief relationship with Nelly, according to police reports.
IMAGES: Greg Hardy released from jail
Holder said she and Hardy returned to the apartment when Hardy started calling her names.
Holder said Hardy hit her and knocked her into a wall, then threw her in the bathtub, pulled her hair and threw her onto a futon that had guns on it.
Holder said Hardy “used both hands to strangle me. He looked me in my eyes and said, ‘I’m going to kill you.’”
Holder said she responded with, “Just do it. Kill me,” once Hardy loosened his grip.
Hardy threw her out of the apartment and Holder said she ran for her life.
She said she didn’t give police a statement because she was scared Hardy would kill her.
But she did tell police that nothing happened and she fell down the stairs. Holder said she was scared to tell the truth.
The district attorney ended the questioning after photos were presented to Holder of her body after the alleged assault.
But Hardy’s attorney, Chris Fialko, questioned Holder’s story and asked, “You got bruises from punching Mr. Hardy?”
Fialko then attacked Holder’s credibility and accused her of a rehearsed testimony.
They also questioned her about past alcohol and drug abuse; Holder admitted to using cocaine prior to the alleged attack.
Holder also told the defense she liked being the girlfriend of the Panthers’ MVP.
Hardy’s attorney claimed the alleged attack happened after Hardy signed a $13 million contract with the Panthers.
Holder said Hardy would pay her rent and bills and that she liked being his girlfriend but it was never about the money.
She said they were not in a relationship the night of the alleged attack but were trying to work things out.
Hardy and his accuser began dating last September, but had broken up at the Pro Bowl in February, the Associated Press reported. Hardy said they had had sexual relations "five or six times" since.
Hardy's play on the field has been dynamic. He's been a key member of Carolina's second-ranked defense, finishing last season with 15 sacks. The Panthers led the league last season with 50 sacks.
In four seasons with the Panthers, Hardy has 33 sacks, 26 in the last two seasons. He signed a $13.1 million, one-year contract in March as the team's franchise player.
It's unclear at this point how the verdict will affect Hardy's long-term future with the Panthers.
The team is particularly sensitive to domestic violence issues, particularly in light of their history with wide receiver Rae Carruth. Carruth was found guilty of conspiring to murder his girlfriend, Cherica Adams, who was carrying his child. He was sentenced to 18 to 24 years in prison and remains in jail.