Chmura Apologizes, Hopes To Return

Monday, February 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) — Mark Chmura is full of sorrow and hope.

One day after being acquitted of sexually assaulting a teen-ager, Chmura broke down in tears as he apologized for his conduct and wished to resume his NFL career.

``I'm ready to get back to work. I plan on suiting up for someone next year,'' said Chmura, who was acquitted Saturday night of charges of child enticement and sexual assault that carried up to 40 years in prison.

``I hope I'm still a good player,'' Chmura said. ``This has opened my eyes up to a lot of things. I disappointed a lot of people. And for that I am truly sorry ... I'm a role model and I let a lot of people down.''

The foreman of the jury that acquitted the three-time Pro Bowl player of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl said Chmura is guilty of one thing: bad judgment.

``He put himself in a bad situation by being drunk with kids and in a hot tub in his underwear,'' foreman Brad Breidenstein, a 38-year-old bar manager from Janesville, said Sunday.

But the jury disagreed with District Attorney Paul Bucher's contention that Chmura went from frolicking around in wet boxers with drunken teen-agers to luring the girl into a bathroom and sexually assaulting her last April 9.

``None of us believed nothing happened. We all believed something happened in there,'' said a 59-year-old female juror who asked that her name not be used. ``But we had no evidence to prove it.''

Breidenstein said without any DNA evidence, it was hard to prove anything.

``We all agreed that they were in that bathroom together. But we don't really know what took place,'' Breidenstein said. ``It was like (defense lawyer) Gerald Boyle said: `She got caught in the bathroom with a married man and now she's got to get out of this little predicament.' ''

Bucher insisted he proved during the trial that Chmura had inappropriate sexual contact with a minor.

``The evidence clearly indicates there was sexual contact,'' the prosecutor said. ``The real issue became if it was consensual or not. That was an issue for the jury to decide. The jury found we were not able to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt, probably for a variety of reasons.''

``Baloney,'' Boyle said. ``I argued there wasn't any sexual contact. That's what the jury found,''

At a news conference in which Boyle didn't allow his client to discuss what happened at the party because of the threat of a civil lawsuit, Chmura broke down in tears.

``I've disappointed many, many people. And for that I am truly sorry,'' Chmura said. ``I promise you nothing like this will ever happen again.''

Chmura said he would celebrate his acquittal by going to Disney World before attempting to resume his pro football career.

Agent Eric Metz said several teams have inquired about the 31-year-old tight end, who was cut by the Packers after he was charged. He was replaced by first-round draft pick Bubba Franks.

``I'm a free agent right now and there's 30 teams out there. And as far as I know, the Green Bay Packers are one of those 30 teams,'' Chmura said.

The Packers cited a salary cap crunch when they jettisoned Chmura. After the acquittal, team president Bob Harlan said in a statement: ``We're just glad that it's over.''

General manager Ron Wolf told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the team could not afford a player of Chmura's caliber because of salary cap restraints. He said he did not expect Chmura to play for a minimum wage contract and thus the Packers cannot afford him.

Chmura said the neck injury that put his career in jeopardy in 1999 is no longer an issue and two doctors have cleared him to play.

Boyle said Brett Favre and other former teammates wanted to attend the trial, but he advised against that. ``I didn't want any public perception that we needed those people to bring justice,'' Boyle said.

Breidenstein said the accuser's inconsistent testimony and surly demeanor on the stand also helped the jury acquit Chmura.

The deciding factor was the testimony of two teens, Michael Kleber and Val Buscemi, Breidenstein and the 59-year-old juror said.

Kleber testified he warned the accuser not to enter the bathroom and that she turned to him, smiled and went in anyway. Buscemi said Chmura's accuser told her she been inappropriately touched by Chmura in a hot tub before the alleged sexual assault in the bathroom.

Chmura's accuser denied both accounts by the star defense witnesses.

Breidenstein said that when the jury got the case, a secret straw poll found there were five guilty votes on sexual assault, which carries 10 years in prison. After debate and two more polls, the vote to acquit was unanimous.

After a few bites of pizza, the jury quickly took up count No. 2, child enticement. None of the jurors realized that was by far the more serious of the two charges, carrying 30 years in prison, Breidenstein said.

Two jurors who voted guilty on the first straw poll for that charge changed their votes on the second poll, he said.

After the verdicts, jurors spent one last night at the hotel where they were sequestered during the 10-day trial.

``We went to the bar and had a couple of drinks,'' Breidenstein said. ``And we all agreed we did the right thing.''