October 23, 2005
UNCASVILLE, Conn. Tony Allen rejoined the Celtics yesterday and spoke for the first time since being arrested for aggravated battery and spending two nights in a Chicago jail. ("That ain't no place for me," he said. Allen posted $150,000 bond and returned to Boston Friday, then traveled on the team bus to Mohegan Sun last night for the Celtics' exhibition game against the Nets.
The Class 3 felony charge, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, stems from his role in a fight that escalated into a shooting at the White Palace Grill in the West Loop Aug. 28.
Despite the prospect of jail time and the fact he must return to Chicago for a preliminary hearing Wednesday, Allen appeared relaxed in the locker room after the game, joking with teammates while keeping an eye on a broadcast of his hometown White Sox in the World Series.
He did not shy away from addressing his legal problems, but kept his comments brief, focusing more on his return from right knee surgery.
"I just feel that I let my team down, by getting into this situation," said Allen. "I'm just trying to get back as soon as possible. I'll let my lawyer take care of everything else as far as any legal stuff and all that. I'm just trying to focus on basketball.
"I'm very confident [that I will be found not guilty]. Right now, it's just a matter a time. The whole thing is basically about getting back healthy. It was a rough experience. I really don't need to be broadcasting it that much. It's something I don't think I'll have to do again. I'll let God and my lawyer take care of everything . . . I'm going to let my lawyer even it out and do a lot of praying."
Coach Doc Rivers and the rest of the Celtics were glad to have Allen back, though they recognize he faces a challenging season dealing with court appearances and rehabilitation. Allen hopes to return to the basketball court in mid to late November and resume the promising career he began as a rookie last season. Allen acknowledged he may have to "deal with" court appearances interrupting his rehabilitation. The Celtics are eager to have Allen back in the rotation after he started 34 games and averaged 6.4 points and 2.9 rebounds per game in his first year.
Watching Boston rout New Jersey, 90-69, on television while undergoing treatment in the training room only made Allen more eager to play. The guard mentioned rookies Ryan Gomes (team-high 15 points) and Orien Greene (4 assists, 3 steals) particularly impressed him last night.
"[What happened in Chicago] got me thinking a lot, but the main focus is just getting back to playing," said Allen. "All the other stuff is going to work itself out. I've just got to keep my spirits up and get back healthy. [My teammates] all called me and told me to keep my head up. Paul [Pierce] called me. Al [Jefferson] called me. Justin Reed called me. It's a nice support group out there. They didn't have to do that, but they did it out of the kindness of their heart. I appreciate that. I just can't wait to get back. Basketball is a way to get away from everything."
But his current break from his legal troubles will be brief. If an indictment is handed down before Wednesday, Allen will be formally charged at the preliminary hearing. He will be arraigned and enter a plea at a later date. His attorney, Mark Zaslavsky, said that Allen "is anxious to defend the charges brought against him, so that a jury can find that he is not guilty of all charges." Zaslavsky wouldn't say he was concerned about video from a surveillance camera at the White Palace Grill.
At a bond hearing Friday, the prosecution alleged the video shows Allen pointing out shooting victim Marktwain Johnson and battery victim Nigel Odum to his entourage soon after entering the restaurant. The prosecution claims the surveillance tape also shows Allen striking Odum in the face and later kicking Odum while he was on the ground.
A New York City prosecutor provided background information about trying cases under similar circumstances. The prosecutor noted that surveillance video can be of poor quality and doesn't necessarily show what is happening off camera. Bar fight cases, in general, are a challenge for prosecutors to prove because it is often difficult to show who the aggressor was, which is one of the ways prosecutors assign culpability.
Odum's left eye socket was fractured during the fight and required surgery. According to the prosecution, Odum lost his job because of the injury and has yet to regain proper vision. His vision may never be fully restored, the prosecution said. Johnson was shot in the left arm and left side during the altercation. Both Johnson and Odum are seeking money from Allen, having filed a separate civil complaint.