Around 9:35 a.m. last Wednesday in a crowded courtroom at the Criminal Justice Center in Center City, senior Temple student Benjamin Wood began his testimony.
On Jan. 18, the 21-year-old had his right orbital bone broken at Club 1800 in Northern Liberties – and now, he wanted Dion Dawkins and Haason Reddick punished for their involvement in his injury that night.
But after 20 minutes, Judge Joyce Eubanks decided that Wood’s testimony – along with other evidence from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office – was not enough. She dropped the state’s aggravated assault charges against both Dawkins and Reddick, and dismissed all other charges against the latter. Court records show Dawkins still faces a simple assault charge.
Dawkins and Reddick, both members of Temple’s football team, were arrested March 16 for their roles in January’s incident, and later suspended by the team. Because of the court’s decision, both players’ suspensions have temporarily been lifted, a university spokesman said. As of Monday night, both are listed on the team’s roster.
At Wednesday’s preliminary hearing, Wood testified that he headed to Club 1800’s bathroom, near the back of the establishment, around 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 18. When he left the bathroom, he said he had a clear line of sight to his friend Delonte Stancil – another 21-year-old Temple senior – who was getting stomped on by Reddick.
After seeing this, Wood said, he went over to the scuffle and tried to pull Stancil up. He added that while doing this, he got kicked in the back and shoulders about five times. As he was pulling Stancil up, Wood said he got kicked under his right eye, but couldn’t remember who kicked him.
As he stood up, Wood added that he saw Dawkins charging toward him. Seconds later, the two engaged in a fight where he was punched more than 10 times, he said.
When Wood was finished testifying, defense attorneys James Funt and Max Kramer told Eubanks that there was not enough evidence to charge either athlete with aggravated assault. District Attorney Jason Grenell retorted, saying that Reddick and Dawkins were directly responsible for the defendant’s injuries.
“This was a beatdown,” Grenell told Eubanks. “The complainant was trying to help someone … [the fight] caused permanent damage, he’s got double vision. … Two people were stomping on Mr. Wood, and they’re sitting here in this courtroom today.”
Grenell said after the hearing that even though Wood couldn’t confirm Reddick broke his orbital bone, definitive evidence wasn’t needed to proceed to trial.
“The judge is supposed to give us any reasonable inference,” Grenell said. “It’s no mathematical certainty, but it also doesn’t take much to think it’s the same guy [Reddick] who kicked Wood.”
Grenell added that he plans to refile the case, which needs to be approved through the District Attorney’s Office and would take about three weeks.
Funt, who is representing Dawkins, said he’s disappointed that the District Attorney’s Office is planning to refile.The 1994 Temple Law School graduate represented another current Temple football player, Praise Martin-Oguike, when he was facing rape charges that were later dropped in October 2013.
“I think the involvement is once you do something beneficial for somebody, the word spreads,” Funt said of getting involved in Reddick and Dawkins’ case. “Praise’s was a case where he was factually absolutely innocent, and I met Mr. Dawkins and Mr. Reddick through Praise.”
Funt added that even though Dawkins still faces a simple assault charge, there are several eyewitnesses that will testify that he was a “peacemaker,” and is confident that he will be acquitted. The 20-year-old’s trial is scheduled to begin May 22 at 10 a.m.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Steve_Bohnel.
Andrew Parent contributed reporting.