JUDGE'S Heart Attack Delays Trial


Friday, May 18th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) _ The trial of country singers Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney was interrupted Thursday when the presiding judge suffered an apparent heart attack minutes before taking the bench.

Town Judge Edmund Brown Jr. was listed in critical condition several hours after complaining of breathing problems in his chambers just before the start of the fourth day of testimony. The judge, who had lung surgery in December, went in an ambulance to Mercy Hospital in Buffalo and later was admitted to its cardiac care unit, a spokesman said.

Testimony was canceled for the day and court adjourned until Monday morning, when the judge's condition will be re-evaluated.

The trial could be put on hold if Brown, 66, is out for a limited time. If the judge can't return to work, however, a mistrial would be declared and the proceedings would start again, prosecutors said.

``It's unfortunate, he's a very nice man,'' Chesney said as he left the courthouse.

Neither McGraw nor his wife - country singer Faith Hill, a daily spectator at the trial - would comment.

``Our thoughts are with the judge right now,'' said Jessie Schmidt, McGraw's Nashville, Tenn.-based spokeswoman.

Chesney and McGraw were arrested June 3 after performing at the George Strait Music Festival at Ralph Wilson Stadium near Buffalo.

McGraw, whose latest album, ``Set This Circus Down,'' tops the country charts, faces the most serious charges after allegedly grabbing an Erie County Sheriff's deputy from behind as the officer tried to pull Chesney from a police horse. Deputies did not realize Chesney had permission from the horse owner's daughter to be on the animal and said Chesney ignored their commands to get down.

McGraw, 34, and road manager Mark Russo, accused of joining the backstage fray, are being tried on misdemeanor counts that could carry prison terms of up to a year.

Chesney, 33, charged with a lesser disorderly conduct violation, would face up to 15 days in jail if convicted. Because he is charged only with a violation, the presiding judge will decide his guilt or innocence, rather than the jury hearing the case against all three men.
The six-person jury will decide in the cases of McGraw and Russo, 45.
McGraw is charged with assault, resisting arrest, obstruction of governmental administration and menacing, and a harassment violation.
Russo is charged with obstruction of governmental administration and resisting arrest, and harassment and disorderly conduct violations.

The trial had been expected to finish Friday. McGraw has a concert in Gulfport, Miss., on Saturday.