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Assault trial begins for former WSU player Robert Barber

UPDATED: Tue., May 16, 2017, 10:03 a.m.

Robert Barber (92) poses for a photo after practice before the the 2016 Holiday Bowl on Sunday, Dec. 25, 2016, at San Diego Mesa College in San Diego, Calif. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Robert Barber (92) poses for a photo after practice before the the 2016 Holiday Bowl on Sunday, Dec. 25, 2016, at San Diego Mesa College in San Diego, Calif. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

The trial for a former Washington State University football player accused of second-degree assault began Monday morning in the Whitman County Courthouse.

Robert Barber, who graduated from WSU in December, allegedly punched a man twice during a July brawl, knocking him unconscious and causing a concussion.

A jury of seven men and six women listened to attorneys’ opening statements, witness testimonies and watched video evidence of the alleged assault during day one of the trial, which is expected to last three days. After opening statements from Whitman County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Dan LeBeau and attorney Stephen Graham, the prosecution called WSU student Nicholas Bowe to the witness stand.

With a laser pointer in hand, Bowe identified Barber in a Snapchat video taken by Bowe at the party where the alleged assault took place in the early hours of July 23. The party began the night of July 22 at the Palace, a privately owned, live-out house for members of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity.

The brief video appears to show Barber punching WSU student Jackson Raney, who testified he bled from the back of his head, possibly due to the impact of his head hitting the floor that night. Raney, who lived at the house, also complained of an injured wrist. Two photos, one of a bald spot on the back of Raney’s head and one of his wrist in a brace, were submitted as evidence Monday.

The video of the brawl included a caption written by Bowe that read, “Lol football players causing fights.”

Bowe testified Monday he did not completely believe football players actually caused the fights and called the caption a “drunk thought.”

Bowe and others testified it was a string of firecrackers apparently set off by football players at the party that caused what was initially a good vibe to turn sour.

Bowe said Raney initiated pushing, told people to get out of his house and acted aggressive before the alleged assault took place.

Bowe said he did not witness Raney provoke Barber. Raney said he did not remember pushing anyone to get them to leave.

“Pushing started, and the next thing there was punches being thrown and just all hell broke loose,” Bowe said.

Raney said he was highly intoxicated the night of the party with a blood alcohol level of .32. He said he had also snorted crushed Vivarin caffeine pills.

Raney said he was unable to recall certain parts of the night. He and others testified he was knocked unconscious after the alleged assault by Barber.

In response to questioning from Graham, Raney said there was a possibility his memory loss could have been due to alcohol or the alleged assault.

WSU student Sasha Hamirani testified she began pushing and hitting Barber after the alleged assault to get Barber out of house and for concern of Raney’s safety. She testified she and some other friends drove Raney to the hospital after he refused medical attention upon police arrival.

After the party, Hamirani said she posted a message to Facebook asking friends for information, pictures or video of the assault. She said she wanted to collect evidence to identify who assaulted Raney. She then received videos from Bowe, who was not her friend on Facebook at the time.

Graham suggested Hamirani did not immediately go to police because she did not want to make a statement that would incriminate Raney, whom she described as a close friend.

“The truth of the matter is, you wanted to canvas around on Facebook and see what videos existed before you committed to any particular story, isn’t that correct?” Graham asked.

Hamirani denied the claim, saying she later submitted videos to the police after hearing that other witnesses were apparently drunk while recounting the incident to officers at the scene. Hamirani said she had clear faculties the night of the incident.

“I had no ulterior motives,” Hamirani said.

Graham questioned Hamirani as to why she did not ask her friends to send their videos to the police and asked whether police body camera footage would show Hamirani speaking to officers that night.

“If I’m not in the video speaking to officers, I guess I wasn’t. But I can tell you that if I wasn’t in the video speaking to police officers, I was taking care of Jackson, who at the time was still unconscious,” Hamirani said.

The trial was to resume at 9 a.m. today in the Whitman County Superior Courtroom.



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