Latrell Mitchell was recorded asking police if he was being arrested “because I’m a blackfella” after an alleged argument with his cousin and fellow footballer Jack Wighton, a court heard.
However, there was bombshell evidence on the second day of the duo’s hearing in the ACT Magistrates Court: the senior police officer behind the arrests of Latrell Mitchell and Jack Wighton admitted he used his memory in his evidence against the NRL stars had let down.
Sergeant David Power admitted his core allegations about why he kicked Wighton out of a Canberra nightclub were incorrect.
The two NRL star players are currently in the ACT Magistrates Court facing charges over an alleged altercation that allegedly took place in the early morning of February 5.
Both players are accused of failing to comply with an exclusion order and engaging in a public fight. Mitchell faces an additional charge of resisting a territory officer.
According to prosecutor Sam Bargwanna, the alleged incident occurred outside Fiction nightclub, where Wighton was initially removed by police because of his alleged agitated behavior, angry expression and clenched fists.
However, Wighton’s lawyer Steve Boland put together a timeline of events using CCTV footage, which led the officer to admit none of it happened.
“What I saw did not appear to have happened and my memory failed me,” Sgt Power told the court.
Mr Boland said the officer had fabricated his evidence and had not forgotten what he had seen.
He called the sergeant’s story “a complete fantasy that you made up to justify everything that’s happening.”
Sgt Power denied intentionally misleading the court. He admitted that he had a “long-term memory problem.”
The players had been celebrating Wighton’s 30th birthday with friends when the incident occurred and police intervened to break up the altercation by arresting Mitchell and reminding Wighton of his expulsion order.
In video footage played to the court, Mitchell could be heard screaming in pain, saying he had “done nothing wrong” and asking police if they were arresting him “because I’m black.”
South Sydney Rabbitohs player Latrell Mitchell (left) and former Canberra Raiders star Jack Wighton leave the ACT Magistrates Court on Monday
Mitchell arrives at court wearing a bolo instead of a traditional tie, which raised eyebrows among many
The defense said Mitchell followed instructions to get to his knees and then to the ground, but was then pinned to the ground by a police officer.
Wighton’s lawyer Steve Boland told the court the player was “screaming in pain” and was “terribly distressed” while Wighton stood nearby.
The court also heard that friends of Mitchell and Wighton urged the officers to stop.
“This is police brutality,” one friend can be heard saying on camera footage, while another calls on officers to “de-escalate.”
The group protesting alongside police included Canberra captain Elliott Whitehead, who told an officer watching Mitchell’s arrest: “The way you came over was not right.”
But the senior police officer on the scene told the court he had no problem with the way Mitchell was restrained.
Wighton and Mitchell share a happy photo from earlier in the evening as they celebrated the ex-Raider’s 30th birthday before the alleged fight
Sergeant David Power, who continued his testimony on Tuesday morning, said he “didn’t see any problem” with it, even after watching footage of the arrest.
The vision played Monday showed Mitchell surrendering to his knees before police elbowed him and kneed him, pinning him facedown on the ground.
A police briefing note said he had “problems” and had to be “placed on his stomach” after falling to his knees.
Mitchell feared for his life and was a “crying mess”, the court heard.
Mitchell also caused a stir with his choice of clothing in court, as he wore a bolo tie instead of his usual tie.
A bolo tie is a unique and iconic accessory that is closely linked to the world of country and western music.
It consists of a cord or braided leather strap that attaches to the front of the neck with a decorative metal clasp or slider and is often decorated with motifs reflecting the heritage and style of the American Western.
They are typically worn by country musicians and enthusiasts, including stars such as Roy Rogers, Bob Dylan and John Travolta in his role as Vincent Vega in the hit film Pulp Fiction, who use them as part of their clothing.
Mitchell is a huge fan of country music and was able to go backstage and meet one of his idols, Luke Combs (pictured together) earlier this year.
Mitchell returns to his rural roots whenever he can and is often seen wearing his trademark cowboy hat on his property near the town of Taree in northern New South Wales
Mitchell also has his own country clothing line with his brand Winmarra Connect to Country
Mitchell is a well-known country fan who went backstage at a Luke Combs concert earlier this year and presented the country star with a Rabbitohs jersey.
He was also filmed splashing a beer with the popular musician, an act planned by many football fans following his injury-hit season.
Mitchell also regularly returns to his hometown of Taree in northern New South Wales to work on the family farm and also has his own country fashion label, Winmarra Connect to Country.
Its website states: “Winmarra, meaning ‘mountain people’, refers to the harsh and rich land in which its nomadic people have lived – and thrived – for centuries.”
Both Wighton and Mitchell were wearing Stetson hats on the night the Souths star was arrested.
Country and Western music icon Johnny Cash was famous for wearing a similar cowboy hat
John Travolta famously wore a bolo during his iconic dance scene with Uma Thurman in Quentin Tarantino’s hit film Pulp Fiction
The Stetson is an iconic American cowboy hat known for its high quality craftsmanship and distinctive design. It is characterized by its wide brim and kinked crown and is typically made of felt or straw.
Stetson hats have deep roots in American culture and have become synonymous with country music, as they are often worn by country artists, including the legendary Johnny Cash, during performances.
The hearing could take place next year, with Mitchell’s lawyer Jack Pappas telling the court the case had “no hope” of being concluded on Wednesday.
Judge Jane Campbell said there was little room in her calendar to continue the hearing in the near future, meaning the charges could hang over the duo for some time.
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