The Baltimore Ravens linebacker accused of three counts of aggravated assault was portrayed as a "peacemaker" in court Wednesday morning.
Terrell Suggs was "trying to keep a fight from happening," defense attorney Lawrence Kazan said during opening statements in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix.
Suggs, a 22-year-old former Arizona State defensive end, is accused of punching a man and hitting another with rebar during a March 2003 brawl at Phoenix Municipal Stadium after a basketball tournament.
Suggs says he was the one attacked when he went to pick up his cousin, who was playing in the tournament.
For the next week, jurors will hear from three plaintiffs — Anthony Henrie, Jeremy "J.C." Cook and Casey Cothern — plus Suggs, his 18-year-old cousin Donald Suggs, Robert Sanchez and Keith Wilson.
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome; Ted Monteseno, Suggs’ position coach at ASU; and John Ren from Suggs’ alma mater Hamilton High School also will take the witness stand to defend his character, the defense attorney said.
Other witnesses will include several people who saw the incident — including one who took digital photos of the fight.
Henrie, Cook and Cothern filed a lawsuit against Suggs and his co-defendants March 28 this year saying Suggs and his friends surrounded and beat them.
"Terrell Suggs masterminded, led and initiated a gang assault on plaintiffs," attorney Joseph Rocco wrote in the lawsuit. Rocco goes on to say that Suggs and Donald Suggs styled themselves as gangsters and called themselves the "1080 Crew."
The defendants have all pleaded not guilty. Terrell Suggs turned down a plea deal in May.
The incident occurred weeks before the Pro Bowl player was picked in the first round of the NFL draft.