Jury believes Panthers' Beason: He didn't hit accuser

After a nine-day trial that offered a glimpse inside the life of a professional athlete, a Mecklenburg jury on Thursday found Carolina Panthers linebacker Jon Beason did not assault a patron at a Charlotte strip club in November 2009.

Jurors in the civil lawsuit trial vindicated Beason, who testified that while he wanted - and tried - to punch Gregory Frye, he didn't hit him.

The jury of eight women and four men also found that Frye had slandered Beason when he told people that he'd seen Beason using cocaine at a lake party. The jury awarded the prominent NFL player $1 in damages - which is all Beason said he wanted.

Beason, 26, and Frye, 30, appeared stoic as the verdicts were announced.

After the jury was excused, Beason stood up and hugged his attorneys and his mother, Terry Beason, who wiped away tears as she left the courtroom.

"It was never about the money," Jon Beason told reporters after the verdict. "It was just about justice, and I'm glad I got that today."

The trial featured testimony from the strip club manager, pro football players, Beason's personal chef - and a snapshot of their lifestyles and partying.

Jurors, who deliberated for five hours, declined to discuss what evidence - or lack thereof - weighed heaviest in their decision.

But George Laughrun, one of Beason's attorneys, told the Observer: "This case was about credibility and believability. Who would the jury believe - Jon or Greg? They believed Jon.

"I really believed in Jon from the first time I met him. He was so sincere. He wasn't interested in settling... He said whatever it takes to clear his name, he wanted to do."

Beason told the Observer he thinks the verdict clears his name. "I can walk around with my head up and feel good about it."

Frye left the courthouse escorted by deputies and refused to talk to reporters. But he spoke to the Observer in an interview Thursday night.

"Unfortunately, the jurors never got to see the missing video surveillance footage from the Uptown Cabaret," Frye said. "If they had, obviously the verdict would have been different."

The Uptown Cabaret's general manager testified last week that surveillance cameras malfunctioned and there was no video of the confrontation between Beason and Frye.

Frye's attorney, Curtis Osborne, said he remains "absolutely" convinced Beason hit Frye: "And I think Mr. Beason knows that he did it. That's between him and God right now."

Frye, an unemployed insurance and fitness center worker, who acknowledged in court he carries a phony NFL player's card, sued Beason for what he called Beason's "crushing" blow to his face.

Frye told jurors Beason knocked him down with one punch at the Uptown Cabaret, then hit him again when he got up. One witness, an acquaintance of Frye's, testified that he had seen the attack. But Beason's friends told jurors they had stopped Beason's punch.

The confrontation came after Frye told another Panthers player that he had seen Beason using cocaine on a boat at a party on Lake Norman. He said he suffered a crushed nasal cavity, and a doctor testified that his injury was consistent with a blow from a fist.

But Beason told jurors he never hit Frye. He also said he never used cocaine, an allegation Beason described after the verdict as "the toughest part for me."

"When you die, that's all you leave is your name," he said. "And how you conduct yourself usually determines what follows after that name. For me, I would never want to be associated with something like that."

About the ordeal, Beason said: "I think I'm more mature because of it."

As for Frye, Beason said, "Hopefully, he'll learn a lesson here too. I wish him well. And that's probably all I'd want to say."

Asked if he thought Frye was after his money, Beason replied: "It was about a check."

Beason's mother said it was hard to hear about Frye's accusations. "I couldn't believe it," she said, crying. "He's the perfect son. I just couldn't believe it."

Terry Beason said she is proud of her son. "He stood up for what he believed in."

Asked if she thought he'd win the case, she said: "I believe in the justice system, and God always is true to his word. So right is right, and wrong is wrong."

Beason had been charged with assault after Frye persuaded a magistrate to issue an arrest warrant. But prosecutors quickly dismissed the charge. An investigator testified there weren't witnesses and that Frye lacked credibility.

A manager at the Uptown Cabaret also questioned Frye's integrity, testifying that he'd caused problems at the club in the past.

But attorney Osborne pointed out Thursday that Frye went to the strip club that night and ended up bloody with broken bones in his face. "So if Mr. Beason didn't do it, who did?"

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