The accuser in a battery case against Sebastian Janikowski said the Oakland Raiders kicker forced her into a room in the back of a nightclub and wouldn't allow her to leave, screamed at her and pushed her because he thought she had been taking photos of him.
But Syrena Nicholson, 36, told this newspaper she didn't know Janikowski's identity at the time of the September 2010 late-night confrontation, which spurred misdemeanor charges of battery and false imprisonment that surfaced last week in a pretrial conference in Contra Costa Superior Court.
"He was very red, very angry," Nicholson said. "I kind of felt he was going to beat me up."
Paul Healy, Janikowski's Florida-based agent, questioned the accusations and how eight months passed between the incident and the day charges were filed in May.
"It's old news. This happened 51 weeks ago and he was not arrested," Healy said. "We're dealing with this through the courts."
The Raiders made a similar statement last week, saying the team was aware of the incident but did not deem it newsworthy. The NFL has declined to comment.
Nicholson said she went with a friend to a Walnut Creek nightclub the night of Sept. 24, 2010, and because her friend knew a manager, she was allowed backstage, where she took photos and watched a rap artist perform.
After the performance, she said, people began to gather backstage, with some moving into an open walk-in refrigerator.
Nicholson admitted that she drank alcohol heavily that night but that by the time the show was over, she was drinking water and trying to sober up.
"Everyone went back into this walk-in area," she said. "We were having a good time when he came in, this guy that I had never seen before, and started yelling at everyone to leave. Then he pointed at me and said, 'Except for' me."
"He shut the walk-in door and started yelling at me that I had been taking pictures of him at the show," Nicholson said. "I had never seen him before in my life. I kind of know who he is now, but I don't keep track of sports."
Nicholson, who is 5 feet 9 and weighs 130 pounds, said she went toward the door to leave, but that the football player blocked her way. Janikowski is listed at 6 feet 2, 250 pounds on the Raiders' website.
"He had one arm free, and pushed me. I ended up falling backward," she said. "At that point I didn't know what was going to happen. I started screaming for my life."
Then, "some people pushed the walk-in open" and she was freed. She said she wanted to go to police that night but remembers being talked out of it. She reported it the next day.
"I decided it was the right thing to do," Nicholson said.
By the time she reported the episode, people able or willing to corroborate her version of events were hard to find. She recalled having trouble remembering what Janikowski looked like. Walnut Creek police continued investigating the incident, much to her surprise; she thought the case had been dropped after losing touch with authorities and learned from a reporter that the case was still active.
Since the case was filed to prosecutors in May, an attorney has been appearing for Janikowski in court proceedings. The maximum penalties are 18 months in jail and a $3,000 fine.
Janikowski's prior run-ins with the law cover barroom fights while at Florida State University, and an arrest -- and eventual acquittal -- after he was suspected of possessing the date-rape drug GHB in 2000, just before his rookie season with the Raiders. Locally, he pleaded no contest to a DUI charge in 2002 near Oakland, and avoided prosecution in connection with a 2003 fight outside a Walnut Creek restaurant because of a lack of evidence.