TIM ON TRIAL

Tim walked into a courthouse in Orchard Park, N.Y., on May 14 knowing he could spend a year in prison. Nine days later, he emerged from the same building still a free man.

Tim, Kenny Chesney and Tim's road manager, Mark Russo, had faced possible jail time following the now-infamous "horse incident." After a concert last June 3, Kenny was forcibly pulled from a police horse that he maintained he had been given permission to ride. Tim came to Kenny's aid and a brawl ensued. Tim was charged with assaulting an officer, interfering with police and harassment, and Kenny was charged with disorderly conduct.

After months of delays, Tim finally stood before the six-person jury, with his superstar wife Faith looking radiant in the front row. Just as the trial was getting off the ground, though, Judge Edmund Brown Jr. suffered respiratory failure and was rushed to a hospital. Another judge stepped in, narrowly avoiding a mistrial.

After the prosecution offered its case - Det. Arthur Litzinger telling jurors that Tim had grabbed him in a headlock - Tim and Kenny took the stand. Kenny told the court that Sgt. Mark Rokitka had stuck a billy club into his rib cage and ordered him off the horse. He recalled hearing Tim's voice seconds later yelling, "Hold on!" as he came to his friend's rescue.

Tim testified that he had jumped in because he was "scared Kenny was going to go face first into the concrete," and had been grabbed by the neck and hit with a nightstick for his trouble - despite Tim's pleas that his daughters, Maggie and Gracie, were watching nearby.

There were some lighter moments, too. When a prosecutor referred to Tim having had three No. 1 hits in a year, Tim quickly corrected him: "Actually, six." At one point the 5'7" Kenny was asked his height, which he gave as 5'8". "Is that perjury?" he wondered aloud, drawing laughter from the courtroom.

The jury began deliberations on May 23, returning to the courtroom after less than three hours with the verdict: "Not guilty." Tears streamed down Faith's face as she heard those words.

"I had complete faith in the justice system, and am pleased with the verdict," said Tim, who still faces a civil suit from officer Rokitka.

"We've been waiting 11 months for the trial," said Kenny. "We're glad this is over."

-Chris Neal

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