A former Edmonton Eskimos standout was acquitted of assault yesterday in a bizarre case involving an altercation with a senior over a weight machine at a gym.
Provincial court Judge Ralph Chisholm ruled he could not choose between the "diametrically opposed" testimony of former Canadian Football League receiver Craig Ellis, 46, and alleged assault victim Vernon Treichel, 68.
As a result, the judge said he was not satisfied the allegation had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt and it would be "simply dangerous" to convict on the evidence.
"The charge is dismissed," said Chisholm.
At the time Ellis, working as a personal trainer, was charged with the alleged Jan. 23, 2006, assault, police said he had pulled Treichel, whom they described as a 66-year-old patron with two hip replacements, off an exercise machine.
Treichel testified he was a member of Hardcore Health and Fitness, 6009 86 St., and had been working out on a weight machine doing chest exercises when Ellis came over and bent down like he was going to push him off.
Treichel said he yelled at Ellis and the personal trainer went to complain to the owner. A short time later he said Ellis came from behind and grabbed him by the throat.
The senior claimed Ellis "flipped out" and tried to choke him and then punched him several times in the face. He even brought pictures illustrating his alleged injuries.
"I think he was on drugs or something," testified Treichel, speculating Ellis was suffering from so-called "roid rage.
"It was erratic the way he acted, violent, just bang."
Treichel also testified he had a run-in with Ellis on Sept. 14, 2005, in which he claimed the former football star threatened him in a dispute over an exercise machine.
Ellis took the witness stand in his own defence and denied threatening Treichel. He also denied using steroids and said he doesn't take supplements, not even vitamins.
Regarding the Jan. 23 incident, Ellis testified he had been going to use the weight machine when Treichel brushed by him and pushed him away, saying "you're not using this machine - you think you own this place."
Ellis said he complained to the gym owner and then took his client to another machine. While she was doing a set, he went to the machine Treichel was using to get a small portable weight he wanted to use with the client.
While he was reaching to get the weight, Treichel saw him and turned, and the two weightlifters got tangled up. But, he denied hitting Treichel or putting him in a bear hug.
When asked under cross- examination why he needed that small weight when there were others available, Ellis said it was just the closest one and he had no other intentions.
"I'm not like that," he said. "I'm not a violent person."
Several other witnesses testified to seeing the altercation, including one woman who said it appeared Ellis had Treichel in a "very tight" bear hug, but the judge ruled none of them had seen the incident from start to finish.
Ellis, who caught 106 passes in 1990 with the Eskimos, also played with the Toronto Argonauts and Saskatchewan Roughriders in a stellar CFL career.