MILWAUKEE -- Now Charles Barkley will have to play defense.
The Philadelphia 76ers' superstar was charged yesterday with misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct for breaking the nose of a 25-year-old man who had questioned Barkley's toughness outside a downtown bar here.
A court appearance is scheduled next Tuesday in Milwaukee.
"Without any question, we are going to fight this," said Tom Sullivan, one of Barkley's lawyers. "We feel positive that. . . a jury will find Charles Barkley completely innocent of any wrongdoing."
Barkley had no comment.
Michael Steinhafel, a Milwaukee County assistant district attorney, explained his decision to prosecute Barkley, saying, "We believe that Mr. Barkley's actions, under the circumstances, were not reasonable in terms of the punch or the actions he engaged in subsequent to that."
Barkley is charged with punching James McCarthy, an Army veteran and a student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Barkley has said that he punched McCarthy in self-defense. McCarthy has said that Barkley threw a left hand after McCarthy had questioned whether Barkley was the toughest man in the NBA.
Steinhafel said Barkley did not have to appear in court Tuesday, and could enter a plea through an attorney. If convicted of battery, Barkley could be fined $10,000 and sentenced to nine months in jail. A disorderly conduct conviction carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail.
Documents filed with the charges disclosed for the first time McCarthy's version of what happened just after 2:30 a.m. Dec. 22 outside Rosie's Water Works, a popular downtown bar.
McCarthy said in a statement to police that he had been walking to his car with two friends when he saw Barkley walking ahead of him with an unidentified woman. McCarthy acknowledged that he yelled to Barkley: "Hey Charles! I hear you're the baddest guy in the NBA."
Barkley has said that McCarthy yelled other, unspecified insulting things at him.
McCarthy said in his statement that Barkley was the aggressor. McCarthy said Barkley turned and walked toward him from about a block away. When Barkley reached him, McCarthy said, Barkley punched him.
The force of the punch knocked McCarthy backward 5 to 8 feet. He looked up at Barkley and said: "What the hell?"
At that point, according McCarthy, Barkley yelled at him: "You want a piece of me? You're going to get it."
Barkley then took off his shoes, his full-length coat and his silk shirt, assumed a karate position and said: "Let's go," according to McCarthy's statement. McCarthy replied: "You go," and several obscene remarks were exchanged.
Meanwhile, according to McCarthy, the woman who had been walking with Barkley arrived at Barkley's side. "Let it go," she said to Barkley, according to a statement by Robert Trednic, who was one of the two men with McCarthy.
Then, according to McCarthy, Barkley picked up a parking sign and held it over his head.
"He [Barkley] continued to try to egg him [McCarthy] on, and then saw the sign and said: 'I'm going to pick up that sign and bash you over the head with it,' " Steinhafel said in an interview.
At that point, two bouncers from a nearby bar ran to the scene. One grabbed Barkley around the waist, and the other got the sign away from him.