England cricket player Stokes goes on trial for street fight

August 6, 2018

BRISTOL, England (AP) — Ben Stokes, the world's most expensive cricket player, went on trial Monday over a fight outside a nightclub in which he is accused of knocking two men unconscious.

The alleged assault, which happened in September after England played in the southwest English city of Bristol, has led to Stokes missing some of his country's biggest matches as he fights the case.

Stokes appeared at Bristol Crown Court alongside former soldier Ryan Hale and emergency services worker Ryan Ali, friends who had not met the cricketer before that night.

Ali's eye socket was fractured by Stokes, prosecutor Nicholas Corsellis said.

"During the incident Mr. Stokes lost his control and started to attack with revenge, retaliation or punishment in mind. Well beyond acting in self-defense or defense of another," Corsellis said. "He knocked Mr. Hale unconscious and then — after time to pause for thought, to calm — he did exactly the same to Mr. Ali."

Stokes had been partying with England teammates at the Mbargo nightclub after a one-day international against the West Indies. Stokes left the club at 12:46 a.m. but the pair returned at 2:08 a.m. and was refused entry because the club was closed. Stokes allegedly hurled insulting comments at the door supervisor.

Stokes then spoke to two men — Kai Barry and William O'Connor — who were described by the prosecutor as "flamboyant, extrovert and openly gay." Security camera footage, which had no audio recording, showed Stokes flicking the end of a cigarette toward one of the men.

Citing testimony from the doorman, Corsellis said Stokes was "mimicking their voices and mannerisms ... making fun of their camp behavior" before leaving the area in an "angry state of mind."

Stokes then encountered Barry, O'Connor, Hale and Ali further down the road where the fighting began.

"We know Mr. Ali had a bottle and he was using it. No one else was armed," Corsellis said. "Mr. Stokes became involved and punched out and grappled with Mr. Ali on the ground."

Stokes was arrested at the scene and footage from one of the police officers' body cameras captured him saying he intervened because a man was "abusing my two friends for being gay."

Stokes, who as an all-rounder is good at both batting and bowling, commanded a fee of $1.95 million in the Indian Premier Leaguer player auction earlier this year as he waited to go on trial.