NEWCASTLE Knights official Ben Rogers was provoked by the drunken, obnoxious behaviour of a woman outside Wests leagues club, but it did not amount to self-defence when he launched a one-man offensive, a magistrate found yesterday.
Rogers, the Knights’ community and sponsor relations manager, was fined $1000 and placed on a good-behaviour bond for a year after he was convicted of two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
The former first-grade five-eighth was captured on a security camera punching Dean Eveleigh in the head before landing several blows to the head of Sean Corrigan, who had turned his back on Rogers to restrain Eveleigh’s sister.
Corrina Eveleigh was so drunk she was ‘‘almost paralytic’’ as well as being obnoxious and abusive while the trio waited for a cab after 1am on September 1 last year, magistrate Robert Stone said.
Rogers and his partner, Carly Nicolls, had attended the Down Town Ball for Down Syndrome NSW when they were subjected to Ms Eveleigh’s abuse, Newcastle Local Court heard.
What was actually said was in dispute, but Mr Stone accepted that Ms Eveleigh had been abusive and Rogers had said something in reply before Mr Eveleigh said: ‘‘How about we bash you and take your missus.’’
Mr Stone said this was provocative but was not a genuine threat to Rogers’ nor Ms Nicolls’ safety given that Mr Eveleigh was initially seated and his arms remained by his sides when he stood as Rogers approached.
Mr Corrigan was ‘‘unimpressive’’ and ‘‘unreliable’’ as a witness, but the footage showed that he posed no threat to Rogers because Mr Corrigan turned his back on him in an attempt to restrain Ms Eveleigh, Mr Stone said.
Defence barrister Paul Rosser, QC, said Rogers’ employment with the Knights was ‘‘in some jeopardy’’ because of the case before arguing that no conviction should be recorded.
Mr Stone refused, saying that the community was concerned about the amount of violence on the streets.
‘‘The community expects a penalty to be given,’’ he told Rogers. ‘‘I accept you were provoked, no doubt about it, you were provoked, but nonetheless you went too far.’’
Mr Stone noted that Rogers was a fit, mature man who was unfortunate to bear witness to Ms Eveleigh’s behaviour, but there were alternatives such as walking away.
Instead, Rogers took his jacket off and approached the trio before throwing a punch that Mr Rosser described as ‘‘a pretty good straight left’’.
That blow sent Mr Eveleigh flying before Rogers threw a flurry of punches into Mr Corrigan’s head.
The Knights issued a statement on their website yesterday saying they would review the matter.
‘‘The club has standards it expects all employees to uphold,’’ the statement said.
‘‘Ben has been stood down from all club duties.’’