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Pinkston Trial in May

Villanova's JayVaughn Pinkston may finally be heading toward a conclusion to his legal troubles, resulting from an assault charges this fall, with his case due for trial next month. In November 2010, before he ever had a chance to step on the basketball court in a regular-season game for the Wildcats, Pinkston was charged with the assault of two other Villanova students at an off-campus fraternity party.

Since then, he has remained free on $2,500 unsecured bail and has rented a room from a family in Villanova, Pennsylvania. Recently, he pleaded not guilty and waived a formal arraignment in Montgomery County Court.

The matter is currently scheduled for trial on May 25, 2010 before Judge Thomas C. Branca at the Montgomery County Courthouse.

The trial will be to on one count of simple assault and two counts of summary harassment. One charge of simple assault was dropped after a preliminary hearing in January when the alleged victims' stories didn't quite match up.

The victim in the remaining assault case reportedly suffered a concussion during the altercation. Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Reifsnyder will have to prove to a jury that Pinkston attempted to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly caused bodily injury to another person to establish his case for assault.

Pinkston's attorney may attempt to defeat the wrap by arguing that his client was intoxicated on the night of the altercation and was unable to form the requisite intent to commit the crime. Intoxication is only a viable defense in some instances, however, and it is extremely unlikely that it would be a successful one in this case.

More likely, they will attempt to beat the wrap with another strategy. Self-defense is a common argument in these sort of cases -- this requires Pinkston to admit that the act of assault occurred. When self-defense is brought in, the defendant argues that their actions were justified, because the other party was the aggressor, that their actions were a necessary and reasonable reaction and that the force used was not greater than necessary to fight off the aggressor.

That last factor will be key. Could Pinkston reasonably have defended himself against these frat boys without breaking anyone's nose or dealing out any concussions?

The defense, essentially the same, also applies to the Defense of Others. If Pinkston was not himself in danger, but a friend or even a bystander was, the law will not hold him liable for an assault that reasonably defended that third-party.

The defense may also argue no affirmative defense. With one charge being dropped already because the alleged victims' stories did not match up, the best strategy may be to simply challenge the credibility of his accusers. If you recall from watching Law & Order, the prosecutor is required to prove the crime "beyond a reasonable doubt," and a challenge to their credibility, if successful, would likely create plenty of doubt for a jury.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of two years in jail, however, it would be uncommon for a defendant without a criminal record to receive a maximum sentence.

According to Pennsylvania sentencing guidelines, an offender without a prior criminal record on simple assault charges would likely qualify for the "Restorative Sanctions" program -- which focuses on "restoring the victim to pre-offense status," and allows the convicted to avoid imprisonment. That option would involve a number of fees assessed by the court as well as an assigned period of unpaid community service assignments. The judge could also choose to have Pinkston confined in lieu of community service for up to a month as a first-time offender (or up to 6 months if it is a second-offense).

At least one of the summary harassment charges is a "lesser included offense" of the simple assault and is essentially a "fallback" option if the prosecution fails in it's case for simple assault. On those charges, the typical penalty is a fine, but a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail is also available, but normally used only in "exceptional circumstances."