Tim McGraw Charged With Assaulting Police Officer

Country star, fellow singer Kenny Chesney face charges after backstage altercation involving deputy's horse.

Country star Tim McGraw is due in court Tuesday morning to face charges of assaulting a police officer during a backstage altercation at a concert near Buffalo, N.Y.

McGraw and fellow country singer Kenny Chesney, along with McGraw's employee Mark Russo, were arrested by Erie County sheriff's deputies Saturday night following the artists' appearance at the George Strait Country Music Festival at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

According to police reports, Chesney sparked a police chase and fracas by riding off on a deputy's horse, with McGraw and Russo becoming involved after deputies pulled Chesney off the horse.

McGraw faces a felony charge of assaulting a police officer and three misdemeanor charges: obstructing government administration, resisting arrest and menacing. He was freed on $2,500 bond.

Chesney was charged with disorderly conduct and released on his own recognizance. Russo was charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, obstructing government administration and harassment; he was freed on $500 bond.

The incident occurred in the stadium's artist parking area after McGraw and Chesney had performed.

Tom Eoannou, an attorney representing the artists, said he hopes to have the charges waived at the hearing, to be held in Elma Town Court in Erie County.

"They only thought they had permission to ride the horse," Eoannou told the Associated Press. "It's a clear misunderstanding. Clearly, it's over riding a horse, and I don't think these charges will stick at all."

McGraw, Chesney and Russo were detained by police for four hours and appeared before Elma Town Court Justice M. William Boller for arraignment.

Sheriff's office reports indicate that Chesney rode off on a sheriff's department horse at about 8 p.m., after the daughter of Capt. James Coyle told Chesney he could sit on her father's horse. Coyle oversees the department's mounted division.

"After [Chesney] got on the horse, he started to walk away with it," Sheriff's Department Chief Thomas R. Staebell said. "[Coyle's daughter] told him to stop, but he wouldn't."

Chesney reportedly rode about 100 yards before Sgt. Mark Rokitka and Deputy Art Litzinger saw him. Rokitka told Chesney to get off the horse, to no avail, according to Staebell.

When Rokitka reached for Chesney, McGraw allegedly assaulted Litzinger, Staebell said. This reportedly erupted into a scuffle involving the sergeant, the two country singers and Russo.

After the arraignment, McGraw and Chesney left for Landover, Md., to perform at Sunday's Strait festival date there. Neither artist released a statement at the time. Curb, McGraw's record label, and RCA, Chesney's label, had no comment.

Monday, Chesney issued the following statement: "Unfortunately, what was meant to be a totally innocent and fun gesture, was blown way out of proportion. Tim McGraw and I have been friends for a very long time. When he saw me in danger of being harmed, he simply came over to help out his friend.

"After seeing Tim's loyalty to me, we have become even closer. We certainly did not mean to offend anyone. We just came to New York to give Buffalo a great concert."

McGraw is married to country singer Faith Hill, with whom he has two daughters. He was honored the day before his arrest as Father of the Year by the National Fatherhood Initiative in Washington, D.C.

McGraw is expected to issue a statement Tuesday. In addition to his dates on the Strait tour, he and Hill are scheduled to begin their first headlining tour together July 12 in Atlanta. Chesney, in addition to the Strait tour, is booked at fairs through the end of September.

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