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Rashard Casey pleads innocent to assault
 Associated Press

HOBOKEN, N.J. -- Penn State quarterback Rashard Casey and a high school teammate beat an off-duty police officer until he was unconscious because the white officer was at a bar with a black woman, police said Monday.

Statement from
Penn St. coach Joe Paterno
I have spoken with Rashard Casey and his attorney regarding the incident in Hoboken, N.J., early Sunday morning and there is another side to the story.

Rashard has not been a discipline problem during his time at Penn State and the conduct alleged in the charges is inconsistent with the personality he's demonstrated to me and the members of the coaching staff.

Rashard is a good young person who gets along well with his teammates of all races. I trust Rashard will be able to proceed with his academic work in summer school with a minimum of distractions.

I hope and expect he will be exonerated when all of the facts are examined.

Paterno statement released by Penn State SID Jeff Nelson.

"What are you doing with him? You should be with us. You're one of us," Casey and Desmond Miller told Officer Patrick Fitzsimmons' acquaintance at the River Street bar early Sunday morning, according to Hoboken Police Chief Carmen LaBruno. Casey and Miller are black.

Casey, who led Penn State to a victory in the Alamo Bowl last year, punched Fitzsimmons, 34, as he was walking to his car, LaBruno said. Casey and Miller, both 22, kicked the officer in the head once he fell, and continued to kick him after he lost consciousness, LaBruno said.

Four witnesses, including an off-duty Jersey City police officer, positively identified Casey and Miller as the officer's attackers and Casey's clothes were covered with blood when he was arrested, LaBruno said. Tests to determine whether the blood was Fitzsimmons' should take several weeks.

Casey and Miller entered not guilty pleas to charges of aggravated assault at the Hudson County Courthouse in Jersey City on Monday. Miller entered his plea by teleconference from the Hudson County Jail, where he was being held in lieu of $20,000 bail. Casey, who posted $5,000 bail Sunday, came into court in street clothes and walked out with lawyer Dennis McAlevy.

Casey did not speak to reporters, but held his hands up at the instructions of his lawyer. "Anybody see any marks on those hands?" asked McAlevy.

Rashard Casey
Penn State's Rashard Casey performs against Iowa last season.

"I have full faith that when this matter is fully adjudicated, Rashard Casey will be the starting quarterback at Penn State."

Prosecutors are deciding whether to try the assault cases as bias crimes, which would double the maximum prison terms Casey and Miller could serve from 10 years to 20 years.

The only evidence of a bias crime comes from Fitzsimmons' acquaintance, not from eyewitnesses, said Edward DeFazio, Hudson County's deputy first assistant prosecutor.

Casey's principal at Hoboken High School, Frank Spano, on Monday said that his former star quarterback is not biased toward interracial relationships because he has a 2-year-old biracial son.

"This is totally out of character for Rashard Casey," Spano said. "He's always been a gentleman, a quiet, well-mannered young man."

Casey, who graduated from Hoboken in 1995, was slated to start as quarterback this season after splitting time last year with starter Kevin Thompson. He passed for one touchdown and ran for a second to lead the Nittany Lions to a 24-0 victory over Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl.

He completed 59 of 94 passes last year for 856 yards and six touchdowns and was the team's No. 2 rusher with 290 yards and five touchdowns who became known for his scrambling style. "He's a human highlight film," fullback Mike Cerimele said of Casey last fall.

Penn State sports information director Jeff Nelson declined to comment Monday on the charges. He did say the university could take action against students convicted of crimes, including suspension or expulsion.

Casey and Miller, of Jersey City, arrived at the River Street at about 1:40 a.m. Sunday, and stayed there for about an hour, LaBruno said.

Fitzsimmons, a five-year veteran who teaches tolerance training at his job in the community policing division, was at the bar with his friend, whose name authorities refused to release.

Casey and Miller jumped Fitzsimmons as he left the bar, police said. A third Hoboken High alumni, Keeon Walker, told Casey and Miller to stop the attack because Fitzsimmons was a police officer, LaBruno said. Walker, who plays football at Syracuse, will not face charges.

LaBruno would not say whether Fitzsimmons was armed at the time. The officer was released from a hospital Sunday, but may require facial surgery after sustaining severe bruises and abrasions, authorities said.

Penn State to investigate QB Casey