Local celebrity testifies about being punched during pickup basketball game

Chris Terrence appeared uncomfortable on the witness stand Thursday, telling a Fresno County Superior Court jury it was not his intention to press criminal charges against a young man who punched him during a pickup basketball game in a Clovis high school gym three years ago.

“I never wanted to testify,” Terrence, 71, told the jury. “I felt sorry for him. I didn’t want to see his life ruined.”

The blow by 30-year-old Branko Boris Dealba broke Terrence’s jaw, cut his face and knocked several teeth from his mouth, prosecutor Nolan Kane said.

I didn’t see the punch, so I had no chance to defend myself.

Chris Terrence in testimony Thursday

But Terrence told the jury that it was Dealba’s silence that hurt even more: Dealba never apologized for punching him, Terrence testified. That changed during a courtroom break Thursday.

“He apologized today,” Terrence told the jury. “He said he was sorry that it happened. I told him, ‘I’m sorry, too.’ 

On the first day of testimony, jurors got a blow-by-blow description from Terrence about what led to him being punched inside the Gateway High gym on Aug. 12, 2012.

They also heard from a retired Clovis police officer who said Dealba contended the day of the incident that he was acting in self-defense.

Terrence is a local celebrity with his own television show and more than 30 years of experience in the radio/television/production business. He’s remained active, he told the jury Thursday, playing sports all of his life, including semi-professional football in Fresno.

He also said he is 5-foot-9 1/2  inches tall and 190 pounds, which is slightly larger than Dealba, who stands about 5-7 and weighs 150 pounds.

In presenting the case, Kane and defense attorney David Muñoz agree that Dealba wasn’t part of the normal group of players who played every Sunday with Terrence for nearly a decade. The other players are local businessmen who stand 6 foot or taller and weigh 200 pounds or more, Muñoz told the jury.

Because the group was missing a player, they let Dealba play, Terrence testified Thursday.

In pickup games, there are no referees, no scorekeeper and no uniforms. Players rely on each other to call fouls.

Terrence testified that he felt he was in charge because he opened the gym to players and was responsible for their actions.

Terrence told the jury how the game went:

Terrence guarded Dealba and Dealba guarded Terrence – and Dealba was too aggressive, Terrence said. “Hey, stop,” Terrence said he told Dealba several times. “This is not the NBA or the final game of the World Series.”

Terrence said that when Dealba continued with his bad basketball behavior, he cursed the young man and told him to “keep your hands off me.”

Finally, there was a switch, and Dealba and Terrence were no longer guarding each other. But Dealba started grabbing his new man and got into an argument with him. Terrence said that’s when he approached Dealba, intent on giving him some friendly advice. “Look, stop it,” he said he told Dealba.

Terrence recalled Dealba saying nothing. They just stared at each other.

With his hands to his side, Terrence testified, he began to walk away. That’s when Dealba punched him. “I didn’t see the punch, so I had no chance to defend myself,” Terrence told the jury. “It was not a fight. It was over with that one punch.”

Louis Duran, the retired police officer, testified that Dealba told him that he felt Terrence and his friends were messing with him.

They were playing a game within a game.

Branko Boris Dealba told police, according to a police report

“They were in this together,” Dealba said, according to Duran. “They were playing a game within a game.”

Duran said Dealba told him that Terrence pushed him first. “He wanted to show Dealba that he wasn’t scared of him,” Duran wrote in his report.

That’s when Dealba “reached back and punched him,” Duran testified.

But on the witness stand, Terrence denied pushing or touching Dealba before he was punched in the jaw.

According to a police report, Dealba said he told Terrence: “If you touch me, I’m going to swing on you.”

Terrence testified that he never heard Dealba say that before he was punched.

That could be true since Duran testified that Terrence told him that he was not wearing his hearing aid that day.

Dealba is free on his own recognizance. The trial in Judge James Petrucelli’s courtroom will resume Tuesday.

Pablo Lopez: 559-441-6434, @beecourts