|Northern Colorado punter says he once considered rooming with teammate accused in knifing|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 02 August 2007 08:34|
GREELEY, Colo. (AP) -A college punter who was attacked by a knife-wielding man testified Thursday he once considered sharing his apartment with the teammate who is now accused of the assault.|
Rafael Mendoza, a starting punter for Northern Colorado, was left with a 3- to 5-inch gash in his kicking leg in the attack last Sept. 11 but later returned to the team.
Police and prosecutors allege that Mendoza's backup at the time, Mitch Cozad, stabbed Mendoza in a bid to get the starter's job.
Cozad is on trial on charges of attempted first-degree murder and second-degree assault. His attorney, Joseph Gavaldon, has said another student attacked Mendoza.
Under questioning by Gavaldon, Mendoza said Cozad - who lived in a dormitory - once told him ``he was thinking about moving out, and I had an extra bedroom'' in an off-campus apartment.
Asked if he was considering offering the room to Cozad, Mendoza said, ``That's right.''
Later, Gavaldon asked Mendoza about his previous testimony that he could not see who attacked him because only the assailant's eyes were visible beneath the cinched-up hood of his black sweat shirt.
``It wasn't Mitchell Cozad, was it?'' Gavaldon asked.
``I couldn't tell you that,'' Mendoza replied.
The 22-year-old was composed and businesslike on the stand Thursday, a day after he broke down amid his reconstruction of the assault.
The 22-year-old testified he had just gotten out of his car at his apartment when he heard footsteps behind him, was hit in the head and fell to the ground.
Mendoza said he saw a man swing at him with a knife, miss and then swing again, hitting him in the leg.
At prosecutor Michele Meyer's request, Mendoza climbed off the witness stand to show jurors his position during the assault. Then, using a yellow highlighter to represent the knife, he demonstrated how he was stabbed.
The attack took about a minute and a half, he said, and the first thing that entered his mind afterward was: ``Why would someone do this? I thought it was because of my car. I didn't know someone would want a car so bad.''
Asked what his biggest concern was after the attack, Mendoza began to choke up and said he thought of his fiancee, Meghan Gregory, upstairs in his apartment.
``All this happened, and she had no clue. My family. My football career,'' Mendoza said.
Asked if he was in fear for his life, he said, ``I was.''
Later, as Meyer replayed Mendoza's labored, panting 911 call from his cell phone, Mendoza broke down in sobs, and Judge Marcelo Kopcow called a recess.
In the hallway on the break, Mendoza clung to Gregory and sobbed. His family circled the couple, hugging them.
``To listen to that tape really hit me more than any other time,'' said Mendoza's father, Rafael Sr. ``I cried. I lost it. I won't lie.''
In his opening statement Tuesday, Gavaldon blamed the stabbing on another Northern Colorado student, Kevin Aussprung, who told police he was with Cozad that night but did not participate in the attack.
Gavaldon said Aussprung, a soccer player, was a ``football wannabe'' who disliked Mendoza.
He said prosecutors jumped to the conclusion that Cozad attacked Mendoza because Cozad's car was used.
Aussprung's attorney, Bill Crosier, denied his client was the attacker.
``It's absolutely false,'' Crosier told The Associated Press on Wednesday, adding he was ``flabbergasted ... offended ... disgusted at the innuendo.''
Aussprung is expected to testify later in the trial.
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