Tuesday, May 22, 2001

Self-defense claimed in neighborhood feud

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — Even before testimony began in his trial on a felonious assault charge, defendant Dennis Rock grew emotional Monday.

        Mr. Rock, 46, began sobbing loudly while his lawyer, Hal Arenstein, told a jury about Mr. Rock's efforts to revive a neighbor — who lay gasping for air and turning blue — after a dispute over parking.

        “He gets very upset when he talks about this or when anyone else talks about this,” Mr. Arenstein told a Warren County Common Pleas Court jury.

        The jury of eight women and four men jury heard about two hours of testimony in the courtroom of Judge Neal B. Bronson on Monday.

        The case has been highly publicized because of the unusual nature of the dispute in an affluent community and because of the near-fatal injury it caused. On June 3, 2000, Mr. Rock, a former minor-league baseball pitcher, struck Gary Kretzer, who suffered brain damage and has no memory of the incident.

        It was, Mr. Arenstein said, 15 seconds that forever changed the men's lives.

        While Mr. Kretzer has undergone 11 months of therapy, Mr. Rock has moved out of the neighborhood. He faces the prospect of Mr. Kretzer's family filing a civil lawsuit. And, if convicted of the felonious assault charge, Mr. Rock could go to prison for two to eight years. He's claiming self-defense.

        James Beaton, a Warren County assistant prosecutor, argued that Mr. Rock, 46, admits throwing the first punch — and that Mr. Rock misused his strength as an athlete to hurt Mr. Kretzer.

        “There are things that he still can't do,” Mr. Beaton said about Mr. Kretzer. “He may never do what he did before.”

        But Mr. Arenstein used a dramatic backdrop to illustrate his point: a neon yellow posterboard bearing the words, “Kretzer was the aggressor.” Mr. Arenstein told jurors that the law allows a person to defend himself if he thinks he is about to be attacked. And, Mr. Arenstein said, Mr. Rock “had an honest reason to be afraid” because Mr. Kretzer had balled up his fist after threatening to hit Mr. Rock.

        Mr. Kretzer's wife, Kim, testified that she didn't see the fight but she saw its aftermath — and that Mr. Rock was walking away from her fallen husband as she kept shouting “What happened?”

        She said Mr. Rock told her to call 911. Then Mr. Rock began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on Mr. Kretzer, but only after a nurse who happened upon the scene told him to do so immediately, Mrs. Kretzer said.


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