29 Jun 2017

'He shook my hand and walked away' - Webster

8:19 pm on 29 June 2017

All the witnesses have been heard in the trial of professional basketball player Corey Webster, who is facing two charges of assault.

Corey Webster enters the North Shore Distric Court.

Corey Webster enters the North Shore Distric Court. Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

Mr Webster is on trial at the North Shore District Court after allegedly pulling a man's beard, and grabbing another man's hoodie at a Takapuna bar on the night of his 28th birthday in November.

Mr Webster took to the stand today and said Michael Tilton, who was dressed up as Santa, came over to his table of friends and explained he was raising funds for Starship Hospital.

His beard was painted or spraypainted white and Mr Webster didn't believe it was real so he asked him, Mr Webster said. Mr Tilton said it was real and then the two joked back and forth about it, Mr Webster said.

"I then pulled on his beard and he said, 'Yeah, you can pull on it and check if it's real'. At the same time he tugged on my little beard, if you want to call it [that], then we had a joke about it. He laughed about it, I laughed about it. He then shook my hand and walked away."

However Mr Tilton told the court earlier this week Mr Webster had used such force that hair was pulled out of his face. It was painful and embarrassing and it wasn't a joke, he said.

Judge Ajit Singh today amended a punching charge against Mr Webster, saying the evidence was unreliable, and changed it to the hoodie-pulling.

The judge said the victim, Joungmin Namkung, had his eyes closed at the time of being punched, did not know who threw the punches and only guessed at who hit him.

A second witness, Eve Whitley, said the man who threw the punches was stocky and wearing shorts - a description that did not match Webster. He said the fracas was fast moving and happened at about midnight, so lighting was an issue.

But Judge Singh said there was evidence before the court that suggested Mr Webster had pulled Mr Namgung's hoodie.

On the stand Mr Webster said insults were yelled at the people at his table from another nearby table at the bar. It related to an earlier incident in the bathroom where Mr Webster's friend blocked the door while the two had stopped for a conversation and a man outside yelled, 'get out of the bathroom f******', Mr Webster said.

He said while they were seated outside he heard glass smash and then the same man from outside the bathroom door came over to his table. The group stood up and one of his friends got into an altercation with the man.

"After that a lot of people stood up and sort of got involved and got close to the situation because it was a physical altercation."

He braced himself as if a fight was going to break out, he said.

"A man appeared right in front of me out of nowhere and I grabbed him by the [hoodie] and pushed him backwards and said 'what the f*** are you doing?'

"I then saw that he wasn't trying to attack me or anything and that ended."

Mr Webster said he then saw that his partner, Taryn MackIntosh, was on the ground and went over to help her and then the two left.

Ms MackIntosh took the stand after Mr Webster and said she didn't see what Mr Webster was doing because he was behind her.

The defence and prosecution will provide written submissions before the judge decides on the outcome in the coming months.