Former Mecklenburg Commissioner 'very disappointed' in Panthers' handling of Hardy case

Former Mecklenburg Commissioner 'very disappointed' in Panthers' handling of Hardy case

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A former Mecklenburg County Commissioner is speaking out and taking aim at the Carolina Panthers' handling of the Greg Hardy case.

Former Commission Chairman Harold Cogdell was a member of the Charlotte City Council when he was charged with misdemeanor assault on a female in January 2002.

He says that experience sparked him to speak out about way the Panthers' organization is handling the case.

Hardy was deactivated on Sunday before the Panthers game with the Detroit Lions.

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera defended his late decision to make Hardy inactive by saying the "climate has changed" in the NFL and the team "has to get this right."

Hardy was convicted in July of assaulting his ex-girlfriend, Nicole Holder, inside his uptown Charlotte condo last May.

Hardy was sentenced to 60 days in prison followed by an 18-month probation after he assaulted his 24-year-old ex-girlfriend.

His attorney requested an appeal before a jury trial in superior court, meaning his sentence and probation will be suspended until a jury trial can be completed.

Rivera said he wouldn't rule out Hardy playing this season but refused to put a timetable on that decision.

Cogdell sent a statement to WBTV after it was published in the "Opinion" section of The Charlotte Observer.

"I never thought there would be a set of circumstances that would motivate me to want to remind the general public about my own legal troubles that I found myself in several years ago," Cogdell said in his statement.

A former female employee accused him of assault in January 2002.

"Let me be clear, at no time did I ever assault her," he said. "I had just gotten elected to the Charlotte City Council and local media followed my case closely as it progressed through the court system."

Similar to the Hardy trial, a bench trial judge found Cogdell guilty and he immediately appealed.

Cogdell, who is also a practicing attorney, says once a misdemeanor is appealed, the conviction is set aside and a person gets a new trial. They are no longer guilty.

"Several months later I was found 'Not Guilty' by a jury. During the almost 18 months the case was pending, I continued to serve on the Charlotte City Council and practice law," Cogdell said. "In the minds of some, I was guilty period - without any need to know the facts or hear any evidence."

Cogdell says as the public makes up the "court of public opinion" it is important to note there are many details in cases that are not made public. People on trial are considered innocent until they are found guilty by a jury.

"It is disheartening that the instantaneous nature of our society has gravitated so far away from this cornerstone of our judicial system," Cogdell wrote.

"Keeping an open mind and admitting that there too many unknowns to form an opinion about a specific alleged domestic violence incident is not the same as being apathetic about or turning a blind eye to an unacceptable culture to violence against women," he continued.

Cogdell says he is "very disappointed" in the Panthers decision to deactivate Hardy before allowing the judicial process to run its course.

"However, I am even more disappointed in the general public's increasing willingness to rapidly form deeply entrenched opinions about situations and issues armed with such a limited understanding of relevant facts and circumstances," he said.

Rivera says he isn't sure if Greg Hardy will play Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers and that the team hasn't considered releasing the Pro Bowl defensive end.

Rivera says Hardy will continue to practice and attend team meetings, but he won't make a decision on if he plays until later this week.

The Panthers plan to continue to gather information in what Rivera says is "a very fluid situation."

Copyright 2014 WBTV. All rights reserved.