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Patriots player pleads not guilty to scalding aide

WRENTHAM -- New England Patriots offensive lineman Kenyatta Jones appeared in Wrentham District Court yesterday to face charges that he doused his administrative assistant with scalding water, sending his longtime friend to the hospital with second- and third-degree burns.

On the day he was to return to the team after a long medical absence, Jones pleaded not guilty to charges of assault with intent to maim, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and mayhem, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Police said the injuries suffered at Jones's Walpole home Monday night by Mark Paul, 33, were enough to warrant the mayhem charge, which involves a crime where there is "intent to maim or disfigure," according to state criminal law. Police said they had more people to interview about the case.

"It's a very significant charge," said David Traub, spokesman for Norfolk District Attorney William R. Keating.

Asked yesterday about the incident, Jones said, "I'm not going to respond right now. I can't really talk about anything. I don't really want to go into detail."

Paul's attorney, Alec Sohmer of Brockton, said his client was sitting on a toilet when he thought he heard Jones heating something in the microwave, and was doused with hot water moments later.

"This is completely out of the blue," Sohmer said. "Mark is in shock. He's in total shock."

Walpole police said they don't know what prompted the incident, which burned Paul on his back, shoulder, arm, and forehead.

"The motive is unclear," said Walpole police Lieutenant Scott Bushway. The attack, he said, "seems to be completely unprovoked . . . but if you see the injuries, it appears to be a considerable amount of water."

Third-degree burns destroy nerve cells in the tissue affected and go through to the third layer of skin. Second-degree burns, which go to the second layer of skin, result in blisters, swelling, and extreme pain.

Sohmer said that Paul and Jones spent Monday afternoon shopping for gifts for Jones's mother, who was on her way to New England from her home in South Florida, apparently to cheer on her son as he started practicing with the team again after surgery on both knees. Jones has said in the past that his mother has been a big influence on his career.

Paul and Jones were getting along fine the entire day, Sohmer added. They bought Jones's mother several items, including a winter coat. The attack, Sohmer said, occurred around 9:30 p.m.

Jones's attorney, Joseph P. Cataldo, said after the hearing yesterday, "We're optimistic that it will be favorably resolved."

Later, he added that "at the appropriate time, we will make all the facts known. Right now, I can't speak to the allegations. . . . What I will say is there are some facts and some details that are not known at this point by the police or the public that ultimately will be known and will be favorable to Kenyatta." Paul, who could not be reached for comment, was treated Monday night at Caritas Norwood Hospital for the injuries, and called police on Tuesday. Sohmer said Paul was receiving additional medical care last night at a hospital he declined to disclose.

Jones, who is 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds and can bench-press 500 pounds, hasn't played this season after undergoing knee surgery. A collector of Ball python snakes, Jones became the first professional player drafted from the University of South Florida.

He was arrested at 10:40 p.m. Tuesday at his home and released on $3,500 cash bail yesterday -- the same day he was scheduled to begin practice with the Patriots.

Police characterized Paul as a longtime acquaintance of Jones who lived at the player's Walpole home. Norfolk prosecutors and police said Paul was an administrative assistant to Jones and to another Patriots player.

Sohmer said Paul often stayed at Jones's home, but maintained a separate residence. He also said he would make his client available to the media today.

Judge Warren A. Powers ordered Jones to have no contact with Paul, whom prosecutors said has moved out of the home.

It is Jones's second significant run-in with the law. He was arrested three years ago while in college and charged with carrying a concealed firearm and obstructing or opposing a police officer without violence. According to media reports, Jones was arrested at a Tampa nightclub with a teammate from the University of South Florida in Tampa. Jones told police that after the teammate got into an argument, Jones took away his unloaded gun. Jones was later suspended from the team.

According to Pam Bondi, assistant state attorney with the Hillsborough County state attorney's office in Tampa, Jones went into a pretrial probation program for first-time felony offenders. He completed the program last year and the charges were dropped.

Yesterday, Jones was escorted into and out of court by a man who said he was a member of the Patriots organization, but would not give his name.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he was informed of the charges yesterday, but had little to say. "I really don't have enough information at this point to shed much light on it," he said.

Michael Smith of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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