The attorney for the man accused of punching Ohio State linebacker Tyler Moeller in what has been labeled an unprovoked attack is claiming self-defense for his client, both the St. Petersburg Times and the Columbus Dispatch are reporting.
In an interview with the Times, the attorney, Sean McQuaid, stated that his client, Ralph Gray Decker Jr., happened upon Moeller at a Florida bar/restaurant and the two began having a discussion about the LB being an Ohio State football player. Both sides are in agreement regarding that issue.
What happened after that is where the accounts diverge.
According to the Times…
McQuaid said his client told him a different story. He said Decker was talking to Moeller’s sister about her brother being a football player when the linebacker approached him.
Decker said he played for Ohio State but gave a different player’s name, the lawyer said, instead of his own name. An Internet search showed Moeller’s story didn’t match up, Decker said, which led to harsh words.
Decker told his lawyer Moeller then came at him, backing him up 8 to 10 feet while threatening to “kill” and “knock you out.” So Decker punched first…
“He’s concerned about this guy’s (Moeller’s) well-being,” McQuaid told the Times. “But he does believe it was self-defense. Now remember this guy is a football player. He’s a big guy.
“When a big guy is coming at you at a bar, drinking and saying those things, it’s reasonable to defend yourself.”
Needless to say, the accounts from the Moeller side of the equation — in addition to at least one seemingly unbiased witnesses — paint a much different picture than those from the Decker camp.
One witness from Florida, Tyler Craig, said he saw the two in discussion, but that the punch seemed to come from out of the blue.
“I was right there, and I didn’t even think they were arguing or anything,” Craig said according to the Dispatch. “They just seemed to be talking back and forth, then, ‘Boom!'”
Needless to say, Moeller’s family that was with him at the establishment, sister Cathy and uncle Greg Dunn, agrees with Craig’s version.
“Usually, you see a fight coming, guys raise their fists or are yelling at each other or shoving. There was none of that,” Dunn, who claims he was standing next to Moeller when the incident went down. “Tyler was looking at me when it happened. The guy just hit him out of the blue.”
One supposedly impartial witness seemed to side with Decker’s version of the events.
“I just looked back and saw two guys screaming at each other, and threats being made up in the face,” Gerald Ramsberger of Treasure Island, Fla., said. “Then before you know it, (Moeller) is laying on the ground.”
An investigation into the incident is still ongoing. While Decker was originally charged with a misdemeanor, that could be upgraded to a felony based on the extent of Moeller’s injury.
After being punched, Moeller’s head slammed into the floor. He was hospitalized in both Florida and Ohio, with the latter stay involving an operation to relieve pressure on his brain.
As previously noted, Moeller will miss the entire 2009 season because of the injury.