Rene Ranger 'vindicated' by verdict

IAN STEWARD
Last updated 05:00 17/08/2012
Rene Ranger
JASON OXENHAM/Fairfax NZ
NOT GUILTY: Blues player Rene Ranger has been cleared of assault.

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Former All Black Rene Ranger says he feels "vindicated" after successfully defending a charge of punching a man unconscious outside a Northland tavern.

Ranger, 25, a current member of the Blues and Northland rugby teams, was yesterday found not guilty of injuring with intent to injure after an incident outside the Mangawhai tavern in 2009.

The Whangarei District Court heard Ranger was alleged to have punched a man unconscious and stomped on his head, possibly in retaliation for the man drunkenly trying to tackle him.

In a short press conference at his lawyer's chambers afterwards, Ranger thanked his friends, family and employers and said he felt like he had been vindicated.

"I just want to carry on with my life and career," he said.

"It's been a tough three years for me."

Ranger's manager Simon Porter said his client did not let on how much the court case had affected him.

"Playing a test match would be pretty easy compared to what he's gone through in the last three days," Porter said.

The jury returned its verdict of not guilty after deliberating for about 90 minutes.

Ranger had been charged with injuring former Northland man Jason Dick on August 1, 2009.

Crown prosecutor Grant Anscon told the court Dick suffered broken teeth and injuries to his eyebrow, nose and limbs after Ranger punched him then stomped on his head.

Dick, testifying via video link from Australia, said he had been at a concert at the Mangawhai Tavern and he was play-wrestling with a friend while they waited for a ride home.

The next thing he knew he was "spitting out teeth" and picking himself up off the ground, he said.

He denied he had tried to tackle Ranger saying at "five foot four" he was hardly likely to pick on the biggest guy in the bar.

He later conceded that he had been drinking and he did not know how he came to be injured.

Defence lawyer Arthur Fairley said Ranger did not punch or stomp on the man as alleged.

He said Dick ran over to Ranger as he waited outside the tavern and crashed into him, attempting a rugby tackle.

He said Ranger did not assault Dick but fended him off and pushed him to the ground, which he hit face-first.

Many of the witnesses who gave evidence said they had been drinking heavily and reports of what happened conflicted.

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