The former England football captain John Terry has been found not guilty of racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League match last year.
In a case which could have wrecked his glittering career, Terry, the 31-year-old captain of Champions League winners Chelsea, was cleared over the charges of racially aggravated public order offence by chief magistrate Howard Riddle after a five-day trial in Westminster Magistrates' Court.
Terry admits using the highly offensive words, but maintains he was sarcastically repeating what Ferdinand mistakenly thought he had said in the exchange of foul language during a Premier League game last October at Queens Park Rangers' Loftus Road ground.
Riddle says the prosecution presented a strong case and there is no doubt about the offensive words Terry used towards Ferdinand.
But he says that even with all the help the court has received from television footage, expert lip readers, and witnesses, it is impossible to be sure exactly what the words spoken by Terry were, and nobody gave evidence that they heard what he said or how he said it.
The maximum fine Terry, who earns a reported 150,000 pounds ($293,000) a week, faced would have been 2,500 pounds. The damage to his reputation would have been far worse.
He would have been likely to face a ban from England, for whom he has played 77 times in the last nine years, and would have faced another inquiry by the FA which almost certainly would have resulted in a long ban next season.
The incident triggered the resignation in February of England's Italian manager Fabio Capello after the Football Association decided to strip Terry of the captain's armband for Euro 2012.