Charlotte, NC - Monday morning, the domestic violence trial for Carolina Panthers' Greg Hardy is set to get underway in Mecklenburg County.
Hardy is accused of attacking his then-girlfriend, Nicole Holder, inside his uptown Charlotte condo after a night out.
In July, District Court Judge Rebecca Thorne Tin found Hardy guilty during a one-day bench trial. In North Carolina, defendants convicted in District Court have a right to a jury trial in Superior Court.
Under state law, Greg Hardy's earlier conviction has been wiped away. Everything starts fresh on Monday before Superior Court Judge Robert Sumner of Gaston County.
During the trial, Hardy and Holder told different versions of what happened the morning of May 13.
Nicole Holder testified at the first trial that after a night of VIP clubbing and heavy drinking, Greg Hardy erupted around 4 a.m. while the two were in the player's bedroom.
She said Hardy had been angry for months over her brief relationship with the entertainer, Nelly. Over the next few minutes, she says Hardy dragged her along the floor, threw her into a tub and flung her onto a futon covered with semi-automatic weapons.
She says the 6-foot-4, 265-pound Hardy later put his hands around her neck and told her he was going to kill her, then made a phony 911 call, alleging that she attacked him.
"I was so scared I wanted to die," Holder said. "When he loosened his grip slightly, I said, 'Just do it. Kill me'."
Greg Hardy and his attorneys downplayed his relationship with Nicole Holder, whom they described as unstable and desperate to get back in Hardy's limelight.
Hardy testified that Holder, who according to testimony had drunk heavily and dabbled with cocaine during the night, became enraged when he told her to leave his condo on the morning of May 13.
He said she threatened to kill herself, flung herself into the tub and attacked Hardy with her high-heel shoe. He said he never hit her, and called 911 for help.
"I don't fight," Hardy said. "I don't even fight dudes."
Defense attorney Chris Fialko questioned why Holder wasn't more seriously injured if a man Hardy's size had done everything she claimed.
"You didn't break a fingernail, did you?" Fialko asked.
"I did break a fingernail, a toenail," Holder replied.
Hardy testified that Holder had caused a visible wound near his eye. That led prosecutor Jamie Adams to produce a photograph Hardy sent of himself to Holder two months earlier from the Super Bowl in which he had the same injury.
At the first trial, Hardy's accuser was rumored to be a no-show before dramatically walking into the courtroom when she was called to the witness stand. Holder's attorney, Daniel Zamora, would not comment last week when asked if his client will honor her subpoena and show up in court.
If she doesn't, Richard Boner, a recently retired Mecklenburg judge, says Superior Court Judge Robert Sumner won't mess around.
"You'd be concerned if a principal witness didn't show up. Maybe they've been threatened or they've had some inducement given them not to appear," Boner says. "I would expect Rob (Sumner) to issue an arrest warrant and want her held in jail if she's found."
Hardy made more than $13.1 million last season while spending all but one game on the league's exempt list. His new trial comes at a key point: He becomes a free agent next month, meaning he can sign with the highest bidder.
Several NFL agents and industry experts say that given the league's climate on domestic abuse, Hardy's market value will remain damaged even with an acquittal. They say Hardy, 26, may be best served signing a one- or two-year contract for around $5 million a season. That would be an $8 million pay cut instead of a multi-year contract. But it would give him an opportunity to prove his reliability and worth.
"He'd still be young enough to reap the market," says Joel Cory, a former NFL agent now writing for cbssports.com. "Hopefully, he would not have any other problems. And he would start to get some distance from this."
A guilty verdict could threaten his entire NFL future. Hardy has maintained a lower profile since leaving the Panthers.
On Jan. 3, he tweeted as @OverlordKraken: "Be back entertaining and bleed n for u guys as soon as they let me." He occasionally retweets messages from fans, including: "Only thing Hardy is guilty of is falling for the wrong female" and "I really don't care if he is guilty I still want him here."