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Leeds football star escapes jail

Woodgate found guilty of affray  

HULL, England -- Leeds footballer Jonathan Woodgate has been sentenced to 100 hours community service after being found guilty of affray in a street attack on an Asian youth.

Woodgate was cleared of causing GBH and his teammate and co-defendant Lee Bowyer was found not guilty of affray and grievous bodily harm.

The jury took five days to reach their verdicts at Hull Crown Court on Friday after the first trial was abandoned.

Bowyer thanked the Leeds' supporters club and his family for their support during case.

Victim's family tell of anger at verdicts 
Two to keep playing, says club 

"Everyone has stuck by me," he said while leaving court.

The victim's father Muhamad Najeib said he was looking to take further action because "justice has not been done."

He criticised Leeds Football Club for failing to offer any sympathy for his son, who was in hospital for eight days recovering from the attack.

England defender Woodgate and former England under-21 captain Bowyer were accused of taking part in the attack in Leeds city centre which left a 21-year-old student with injuries including a broken nose and cheekbone, a bitemark, and a fractured leg.

The footballers and friends had gone out on a heavy drinking session with friends.

Both were suspended from playing for England while the case was ongoing. Woodgate, worth an estimated 10 million, played once for England as a teenager in 1999.

Bowyer cleared of both charges  

Woodgate, 21, and Bowyer, 24, with co-defendants Paul Clifford and Neale Caveney, both 22, had denied causing Sarfraz Najeib grievous bodily harm with intent in January last year.

They also denied the charge of affray.

Caveney was found guilty of affray but cleared of causing GBH and also ordered to do 100 hours community punishment.

Woodgate's friend Clifford was found guilty of causing GBH and affray, and was sentenced to six years in jail by Mr Justice Henriques.

Woodgate, dressed in a smart grey suit, sat with his arms folded and remained impassive except for a slight shrug when he was found guilty of affray.

Bowyer, who was the nation's most expensive teenage footballer when he signed for Leeds in 1996, was allowed to walk free from court.

The prosecution had said that Najeib, of Rotherham, South Yorkshire, and his friends were chased through the city centre following a confrontation outside the Majestyk nightclub in City Square in January last year.

Najeib was caught and beaten unconscious after tripping over.

Woodgate, Clifford and Caveney had told the jury at Hull Crown Court that they had been bystanders and not involved.

Bowyer had told the court he had been jogging near the area and was assaulted before walking back to the Majestyk nightclub without approaching the scene of the fight.

The jury of seven women and five men had taken 22 hours over five days to reach their verdicts.

The maximum sentence that could have been given for affray is three years, the judge said, while GBH can carry a life sentence.

Addressing both Woodgate and Caveney, the trial judge said: "Five young students were caused sheer terror as they were pursued through the streets running for their lives.

"By joining in that chase you were terrifying both them and other law-abiding members of the community."

Woodgate and Bowyer both have histories of violence which the Hull Crown Court jury was not told about.

The first trial was abandoned in April after the British tabloid Sunday Mirror newspaper published a story the judge ruled was prejudicial.

Mr. Justice Poole said the story had created so serious a risk of prejudice to the trial that it was impossible to continue.

The 11-person jury had been deliberating its verdict for 21 hours, in a trial which had cost 8 million ($11.5 million), when the story was published.

The second trial is estimated to have cost 7 million.


• Hull Crown Court
• Leeds United Football Club

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