Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pacquiao's trainer wins jury verdict

A Los Angeles jury Friday rejected a claim by a former member of boxer Manny Pacquiao’s entourage that the fighter’s trainer, Freddie Roach, assaulted and battered him at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood in 2008 to get him to leave prior to the boxer’s sparring session.

The jury deliberated for part of Thursday afternoon and Friday morning before finding in favor of Roach and rejecting claims brought by Gregorio Asuncion and his wife, Allyson.

Roach denied Asuncion’s assertion that he punched him twice outside the locker room on Oct. 20, 2008, saying he put his hands on the man’s shoulders and only squeezed in order to keep his balance when he felt Asuncion leaning back.

Roach, 49, arrived in shorts and a sweat shirt just as the verdict was being read. He leaned back and looked upward in apparent relief as his lawyer, Arthur J. Chapman, told him the news.

Outside the courtroom, Roach personally thanked jurors, took a photo with at least one of them and offered them all tickets to Pacquiao’s next fight against Joshua Clottey in Arlington, Texas, on March 13.

Roach said he was relieved with the verdict.

“I didn’t get much sleep last night, but when I heard there was a verdict after such a short time I believed it was in my favor,” Roach said. “I’m not a bad person. I simply asked this man to leave and he didn’t. I don’t go around hitting people and if he wants to come back to the gym some time he can.”

In his testimony Wednesday, Roach told jurors he initially put his hands on Asuncion’s shoulders in a friendly way of telling him that he and others in the gym needed to leave so Pacquiao could spar in private. He said he only squeezed due to Asuncion’s subsequent reaction.

“He bucked back and he caused me to hold on so I didn’t fall down,” Roach said.

Roach said there was nothing hostile about his actions and that Asuncion — who he referred to in his testimony as “Sheriff” because the plaintiff is an X-ray technician for the Sheriff’s Department — never gave him any trouble when he asked him on previous occasions to leave the gym during sparring.

Roach testified he sometimes lets the crowds watch Pacquiao train if he feels his fighter needs the motivation from the gathering, but will excuse them during sparring so the boxer can focus on what he is being instructed.

Asuncion, 52, testified Tuesday that he was punched twice and hit so hard by the boxer’s trainer that he could not stay on his feet. He also said he suffered neck and shoulder pain and had to be hospitalized. He said the incident occurred after he went to ask Pacquiao if he could stay to watch him spar despite Roach’s order.

But Belinda Garcia, one of the jurors who was part of the 10-2 majority that favored exonerating Roach, said she was not convinced Asuncion’s injuries were anything other than mild.

The Asuncion couple sued Roach and his Hollywood gym in November 2008.

The suit’s allegations included assault, battery, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligence and premises liability. Allyson Asuncion asserted loss of consortium.


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