PHOENIX (AP) — NBA players Marcus and Markieff Morris went on trial Monday on felony assault charges stemming from a 2015 beating that prosecutors labeled as an “orchestrated attack” and defense lawyers dismissed as a ploy to get money out of the athletes.
Opening statements began with prosecutors saying the two NBA stars and three other men each had a role in a beating that left a former acquaintance with a broken nose and other injuries.
Prosecutor Dan Fisher said it was a coordinated mission and “orchestrated attack” after the victim sent text messages to the Morris twins’ mother that angered them.
Defense lawyers insisted the twins did not participate in the attack and questioned the reliability and financial motives of the man who was beaten. The lawyer for Marcus Morris, Timothy Eckstein, said witness statements that form the basis of the case are “entirely inconsistent and incompatible with the truth.”
The twin brothers face the possibility of prison time and discipline from the NBA, including a minimum 10-game suspension, if they are found guilty.
The two-week trial also threatens to disrupt the start of their 2017 NBA season with training camp set to begin for both players on Sept. 26.
The Boston Celtics acquired Marcus Morris from Detroit in the offseason as part of an overhaul of their roster, while Markieff was a solid contributor for the Washington Wizards last year.
The Morris brothers are accused of helping three other people beat 36-year-old Erik Hood, who has known the twins since they were promising teenage AAU players.
In youth basketball parlance, Hood was known as a “runner” — someone who connects promising young athletes with representatives and agents in hopes of getting a cut of a lucrative NBA contract, Eckstein said.
He said Hood viewed the Morris twins as his “lottery ticket” after they went onto a successful career at the University of Kansas. They had a falling out while the Morris brothers were at Kansas, and…