A SEMI professional footballer screamed for joy as he walked free from court moments after being acquitted of breaking ex-Hibs star Gary Deegan’s jaw.
John Hall, 28, wept after a jury returned a not guilty verdict to a charge which he alleged he assaulted the Irish player in George Street, Edinburgh, on October 7 2012.
Edinburgh Sheriff Court had earlier heard Mr Hall - a self confessed Hibs fan - admit to punching Mr Deegan on the face during an incident in the Scottish capital’s street.
Mr Hall - who plays for lowland league side Whitehill Welfare - told defence solicitor Nigel Bruce that he struck the Northhampton Town player in self defence.
Mr Hall told the court that he didn’t recognise Deegan, who he had told off moments earlier for doing the toilet in the street.
Mr Hall said Deegan was acting in a threatening manner towards him and he thought that he was going to be struck by the midfielder.
The semi professional soccer player said he had no other option but to punch Deegan on the jaw.
On Wednesday, a jury accepted Mr Hall’s story and returned a not guilty verdict after spending 30 minutes deliberating their verdict. Hall, of Gilmerton, Edinburgh, started weeping before thanking the jury.
After Sheriff Nigel Ross told him he could leave court, Hall left the dock, hugged a pal and screamed: “yes!”
The development came at the end of a two day trial in which Mr Hall was accused of assaulting Mr Deegan to his severe injury.
Mr Hall plays for semi professional side Whitehill Welfare who are based in Rosewell, Midlothian. They play their football in the Lowland Football League.
On Tuesday, Dublin born Deegan told the court how he couldn’t play football for more than three months after his jaw was broken during the alleged early morning attack.
The 26-year-old midfielder told the jury he needed two operations after he was allegedly assaulted on the city’s George Street on October 2012.
The court heard how Mr Deegan, who once played for Irish side Bohemians, had spent a Saturday night partying with Hibee team mates in the Shanghai night club nearby.
The midfielder - who had spent the evening drinking Corona beer and vodka and cranberry juice - said he did the toilet in George Street moments before a man punched him on the face.
He told the court that the man who punched him was part of a group that was standing in the street.
Mr Deegan said he had asked the group where he could find a taxi to take him home. But Mr Deegan said a man, who was a group member, punched him.
He added: “I felt stunned and dazed and I didn’t know what to do.”
In cross examination, Mr Deegan denied being aggressive in the moments leading up to the alleged assault.
The court heard that Mr Deegan allegedly told somebody who had told him off for doing the toilet in the street: “I can do what I want. Do you know who I am?”
But when defence solicitor Nigel Bruce asked Mr Deegan whether he had said that or had been acting aggressively towards the group, the footballer replied: “no.”
During proceedings, the court heard evidence from other witnesses who said they saw Mr Deegan acting in a threatening fashion towards Mr Hall.
Mr Deegan was also unable to identify Mr Hall as being his assailant when he was asked to identify his attacker in court.
On Wednesday, Mr Hall told the court that he had received threats from Hibs football casuals over the alleged assault. He said the hooligans thought Mr Deegan must have been assaulted by a Heart of Midlothian fan.
Mr Hall also said that even although he supported Hibs, he didn’t recognise Mr Deegan when he told him off for doing the toilet in the street.
Speaking about the moment, he struck Mr Deegan, Mr Hall told his lawyer: “I thought he was going to hit me so I struck him.”
A jury took 40 minutes to accept Mr Hall’s claim that he acted in self defence.
As he left court, Mr Hall turned to a reporter and said: “Make sure you write about the verdict in your paper mate.”