BAYOU LA BATRE, Ala. (WALA) – Misdemeanor assault charges against Theodore High School football Coach Eric Collier and three of his relatives now are in the hands of a judge.
Testimony wrapped up Wednesday. Municipal Judge L. Daniel Mims said he would rule at a later date.
The charges stem from a brawl that occurred at the Bayou La Batre state docks on May 8, hours after Collier’s 19-year-old son had been involved in an altercation on Dauphin Island.
The Bayou incident, captured on video, shows a melee between the Colliers and men involved in the rival group. Sorting it out in court spanned several hours over two days. Mims heard testimony for almost two hours five weeks ago and then heard from eight more witnesses Wednesday.
“It’s about the longest municipal court trial I’ve ever experienced in my life,” defense attorney Dennis Knizley said after Wednesday hearing.
Collier faces charges along with his brother, Shawn Jerome Collier, and adult sons Wayne Eric “E.J.” Collier Jr. and Hayden Aaron Collier.
Mims opened the proceedings Wednesday by denying a defense bid to throw out the charges under Alabama’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
The prosecution called the three alleged victims to the stand. They testified that men waiting on the docks jumped them, causing facial and head injuries.
Collin Martin acknowledged during testimony that he swung at Collier Sr. but testified it was only after the coach had grabbed his legs. He said he got pulled into the water as his boat pulled up to the dock.
“I got pulled off the side of the boat. … I was under water” he said.
Martin is both an alleged victim and a defendant in a separate case. Prosecutors allege that he illegally fired a gun during the brawl.
Knizley, who represents the coach, pressed Martin about surveillance video that appeared to show him standing behind a man named Hunter Lee Hinton on the boat. Martin said it appeared that way from the camera angle but that he actually was in front.
“I remember who grabbed me, and I remember who pulled me into the water,” he said.
Knizley told reporters afterward that the video demonstrates Martin was not telling the truth and that is credibility is suspect.
“I think it’s highly questionable whether there was ever any reaching any leg, but unquestionably, everyone testified that Mr. Martin threw the first punch, and any actions Coach Collier took was in self-defense,” he said.
Another alleged victim, Darren Bosarge, testified that he had to get stitches on the eyebrow and eyelash from the beating. He testified that Hinton had someone wrapped around him.
Hinton testified that the coach’s son, Wayne Eric “E.J.” Collier Jr. boarded his boat during the confrontation. He said Shawn Collier, the coach’s brother, had Bosarge in a headlock.
The prosecution put on several other witnesses who were with the alleged victims on two boats returning from Dauphin Island. They testified that they saw the Colliers attack. Owen Clark testified that the coach attacked Hinton.
“Eric Sr. held his head under water,” he said.
Asked if it was a fight, he answered: “It wasn’t really a fight. It was more like a jump.”
Quinton Zirlott testified that Bosarge was a victim.
“I saw my friend being held under water,” he said.
But Jason Darley, an attorney who represents Collier Jr., said after the trial that the evidence shows his client was not the aggressor.
“Every single person testified that E.J. did not act, never acted, until someone swung at this father,” he said. “There was testimony that his father was hit. Some people said his father wasn’t hit. But it was unequivocally said that E.J. Collier did not act until his father was hit.”
Prosecutor Brent Day declined to comment. If convicted, the defendants would have an opportunity to appeal to a jury in Mobile County Circuit Court.