AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn running back Eric Smith filed a counterclaim in federal court last week, alleging engineering student Decari Jenkins threw the first punch during an incident last August.
Smith denied “each and every material allegation” of a civil lawsuit filed in November by Jenkins, who claims Smith and two unnamed Auburn football players assaulted him and his friend at the Lexington Hotel on Aug. 21.
Jenkins, who claims to have suffered post-concussion syndrome, is seeking punitive and unspecified compensatory damages for suffering physical and emotional damage.
Smith’s counterclaim seeks unspecified damages for physical injury, severe mental anguish and a damaged reputation.
In his lawsuit, Smith says Jenkins acted in an “unusually jumpy manner” and was bumping into various people at a sorority function at the hotel that night. Jenkins bumped into Smith and the two had words. After walking away Jenkins returned with two empty beer bottles, clanking them together in a threatening manner. Smith knocked the bottles away in self-defense.
After the situation seemed diffused, Smith claims Jenkins punched him in the nose, causing him to bleed severely.
Police reports filed from the incident state that Smith had a bloodied nose when he was arrested after officers saw him knock Jenkins unconscious with a punch to the back of the head.
Smith’s counterclaim does not address what happened after the initial punch.
Smith, 19, was eventually charged with third-degree assault. He pleaded guilty in criminal court in October and was granted youthful offender status, effectively sealing the case to the public.
Smith was suspended from the team by Auburn coach Gene Chizik for 2 1/2 weeks, missing the season opener but returning for the Tigers’ remaining 11 regular season games.
He missed the Outback Bowl after being ruled academically ineligible but is back with the team and working toward a return to the field this spring.