September 7, 2009

Merriman denies assault claim

San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman denies a claim by a woman that he assaulted her early Sunday, his lawyer said Monday.

Former MTV reality show star Tila Tequila alleged Merriman choked her, threw her to the ground and restrained her when she tried to leave his home around 3:45 a.m. PDT Sunday, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department said. Merriman was arrested and was released about 11 a.m. Sunday.

Merriman, 25, and his lawyer said Monday the three-time Pro Bowl player was trying to keep Tequila -- whose real name is Nguyen -- from driving while intoxicated, The San Diego-Union Tribune reported Monday. Merriman told the newspaper he is confident he will be cleared.

I was trying to help her, not hurt her, he said. I'm still glad I did what I did.

He said Tequila, 27, who starred in A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila on MTV, is not his girlfriend, as had been widely reported.

At no time did Mr. Merriman assault her; at no time did Mr. Merriman keep her against her will, Merriman's attorney, Todd Macaluso said.

Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith said in a statement it was disappointing to hear about the issue involving Shawne Merriman.

We'll continue to monitor the situation and let the legal process run its course, Smith said.

Prosecutors had not determined Monday whether formal charges would be filed, the newspaper said.

Merriman, the 12th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft out of Maryland, missed all but the first game in 2008 with the Chargers because of knee surgery. He served a four-game suspension in 2006 after testing positive for steroids.