Country singers Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney took the stand yesterday (May 22) in Orchard Park, N.Y., to tell jurors a backstage skirmish with sheriff's deputies last year started with a misunderstand

Country singers Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney took the stand yesterday (May 22) in Orchard Park, N.Y., to tell jurors a backstage skirmish with sheriff's deputies last year started with a misunderstanding about a police horse.

McGraw acknowledged pushing a deputy who was trying to force Chesney off the horse, which Chesney said he had permission to ride. McGraw said he feared his friend would be hurt. "I was scared Kenny was going to go face-first into the concrete," he said. "It was a big horse." Closing arguments in the case are scheduled to begin today.

The singers were arrested last June after performing during a stop of the George Strait Country Music Festival at Ralph Wilson Stadium near Buffalo. McGraw and road manager Mark Russo, accused of joining the fray, are being tried on misdemeanor counts that could carry prison terms of up to a year. Chesney, charged with a disorderly conduct violation, would face up to 15 days in jail if convicted.

McGraw is charged with assault, resisting arrest, obstruction of governmental administration, and menacing, and a harassment violation. Russo is charged with obstruction of governmental administration and resisting arrest, and harassment and disorderly conduct violations.

McGraw said deputies surrounded Chesney after he rode the horse into an area of the venue reserved for performers. McGraw said he was grabbed and clubbed twice on the knee with a nightstick. Chesney said he was never given a chance to explain that he had permission to ride the horse. He said the ride was supposed to be "an innocent, fun gesture."

Sgt. Mark Rokitka, who fought with McGraw, is suing the singers and others involved with the concert. The officer is seeking unspecified damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and medical bills. Rokitka testified last week that McGraw put a chokehold on his partner and came after him with clenched fists, forcing him to use the nightstick to stop the singer.


AP LogoCopyright 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.