Conor McGregor avoids jail for assault, conviction could put US fighting career in jeopardy

Conor McGregor avoids jail for assault, conviction could put US fighting career in jeopardy
Conor McGregor outside Dublin District Court today. Pic: Collins

Conor McGregor has been spared a jail sentence but his fighting career in America could be in jeopardy after he was fined €1,000 for an unprovoked attack on a man in a Dublin pub.

Desmond Keogh in his 50s from south west Dublin had been at the Marble Arch Pub, Benbulben Road, in Drimnagh at about 2.30pm on 6 April when he was punched by the mixed martial arts (MMA) star.

McGregor, 31, stood up in a packed courtroom today and told Judge Treasa Kelly: “Your honour, what I done was very wrong. I would like to apologise today, to the injured party again, and to apologise here before the court, and assure you nothing of this nature will happen again regarding me.”

The victim, who did not attend the hearing, had received an undisclosed sum of compensation and had already accepted his apology ahead of the hearing.

Pleading for leniency, a defence solicitor told the court McGregor’s “whole career is probably in jeopardy if he has a conviction” for this incident.

Dublin District Court heard Mr Keogh was attacked after he had repeatedly turned down shorts of McGregor’s Proper 12 whiskey which was repeatedly placed, and at one point “slammed” in front of him by the professional fighter.

A file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the fighter was later served with a summons. He was forced to appear at Dublin District Court on a common assault assault charge.

McGregor has spent recent weeks travelling the world promoting his whiskey brand, but had to return to Ireland for day-two of his case.

Disclosure of prosecution evidence including CCTV footage had been ordered at his first hearing on October 11 last. The case was adjourned until today for him to formally indicate if he was pleading guilty or to have a trial date set if the case was contested.

This morning his solicitor Michael Staines told Judge Treasa Kelly that his client was pleading guilty.

State solicitor Stephanie Doyle said Mr Keogh has indicated in a signed letter that he did not want to give a victim impact statement, which was his right. The letter was in the possession of McGregor’s solicitor and handed in to court.

The defence said the facts could be given by prosecuting officer, Garda Jason O’Carroll, and it was not necessary to see the video evidence.

However, the prosecution insisted that the court should see the short piece of footage. The judge put the case back until the 2pm sitting of the court.

Multi-millionaire McGregor who is set to make his UFC comeback in the new year arrived at the Criminal Courts of Justice building in Dublin that morning in a blacked out ‘182-reg Range Rover at just after 10am.

In a navy suit, white shirt, striped blue and tie, he walked silently past photographers and news crews.

The former lightweight and featherweight champ had been quizzed by detectives about the alleged assault, but he was not formally arrested.

Conor McGregor arrives at Dublin District Court this morning. Picture: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Conor McGregor arrives at Dublin District Court this morning. Picture: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

The offence is under Section Two of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the State Act, a category of minor assaults which did not result in serious injury.

It can carry a six-month jail sentence, and a fine.

When the hearing resumed he left the public seating area and sat in the dock at the side of the courtroom.

In evidence, Garda Jason O’Carroll told the court that Mr Keogh had been in the pub from about 12 noon. There were 12 to 15 other people there. At about 1.30pm he decided he wanted to leave and exited to call a taxi.

Judge Treasa Kelly heard Mr Keogh then went back into the pub to wait and stayed at the bar having a drink.

McGregor, a patron of the pub, entered with two males and began talking.

He was handed a bottle of his Proper 12 whiskey by the bar staff and began handing out short glasses. He asked Mr Keogh if he would like some but the victim declined the offer and placed the glass beside the beer taps.

McGregor “slammed” the drink in front of Mr Keogh who again put it back near the taps. He turned down the drink again.

At this stage McGregor was seen approaching Mr Keogh but was stopped and ushered to the other end of the bar by security staff, the court was told.

However, the court heard he later left down a whiskey in front of two men who had been talking to Mr Keogh.

Judge Kelly heard at 2.38pm, McGregor “punched him on the left hand side of his face with closed fist”.

He was “immediately removed from the bar”.

The judge studied the eight-minute CCTV evidence obtained from the pub. Garda O’Carroll also replayed the punch for the judge.

Garda O’Carroll agreed with Ms Doyle that the victim had been looking away when the attack occurred. McGregor had been standing to his left.

He also concurred with the defence that it was a “split-second” out of eight minutes. “Yes, one punch, judge,” he said. It was correct that there was no physical injury caused, however, the Garda added that the man was sore afterwards.

The court heard McGregor had 18 prior convictions from 2018 going back to 2009. The majority were for driving offences such as speeding, holding a phone while driving, driving in a bus lane and documentary offence which resulted in fines.

But he had been given the Probation Act in 2009 for an assault causing harm offence.

Mr Staines pointed out that the previous assault case happened when his client was an apprentice plumber, aged about 19 or 20.

He also argued that video evidence was not always played and full details of prior offences were not always read out in sentence hearings.

However, the State argued that it was allowed under spent conviction legislation.

Pleading with the court to be as lenient as possible, Mr Staines said what happened was “totally, utterly wrong and totally and utterly inappropriate”. His client wished to apologise and the injured party had been "man enough" to have accepted the apology.

He also asked the court to note he had no physical injuries.

A conviction could cause severe difficulties for McGregor, the defence solicitor submitted.

His fights take place in the US and he would have difficulties there if he had a further conviction. He is currently in training for a fight in January, the solicitor said.

He also added that McGregor’s “whole career is probably in jeopardy” if he had a conviction from this case.

He was prepared to offer a substantial sum to charity, he said. His life had moved on in the 10 years since his assault case, the solicitor also told the court.

Mr Staines submitted that: “Mr McGregor should not be treated any better than anyone, and ought certainly not be treated any worse”.

Before she proceeded to sentencing, Judge Kelly was given confirmation by the defence that compensation had been paid. The sum was not revealed during the hearing.

Finalising the case, she said in the circumstances a custodial sentence was not appropriate. She noted he had pleaded guilty early and she noted his remorse.

She fined him €1,000 which must be paid within one month.

McGregor was escorted from the building but would not answer questions from reporters before he was driven away from the courthouse.

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