A trial date of December 7 was set for the three, who now face various misdemeanor charges and potential jail terms of up to a year. The singers were represented by their attorney and did not appear at the hearing in Orchard Park Town Court in suburban Buffalo.

Only McGraw had been charged with a felony following the incident which began when Chesney allegedly took an unauthorized ride on a police horse following his performance at the George Strait Country Music Festival June 3.

While Erie County Sheriff’s deputies were trying to put an end to Chesney’s ride, McGrawallegedly came up from behind and grabbed a deputy by the throat, Sheriff Patrick Gallivan said.McGraw road crew member Mark Russo is accused of joining in the scuffle.

All three have denied any wrongdoing.

“I have to keep emphasizing that this was all due to a misunderstanding,” said Scott Siman, McGraw’s manager in Nashville. “Kenny had permission to ride the horse.”

District Attorney Frank Clark’s agreement to lessen the most serious charge against McGraw to misdemeanor assault was made over the objection of the sheriff, who has been angered by the singers’ antics since their arrests.

“It is not a funny thing,” Gallivan said. “It is not OK that (McGraw’s wife) Faith Hill dresses up in uniform and takes away Tim McGraw in handcuffs at a performance. It makes light of the situation. It’s not OK for Kenny Chesney to get on a horse and go on Jay Leno.”

McGraw was nominated Tuesday for three Country Music Association awards, including best entertainer and best male vocalist. He and Hill, also up for top entertainer, were nominated together for best vocal event for “Let’s Make Love.”

The singers’ attorney, Thomas Eoannou, said McGraw is appreciative that the felony charge – which could have brought a seven-year prison term – is gone. Siman in Nashville said McGraw has taken the arrest seriously.

“We have refrained from commenting while other people have made light of it. I thinkeverybody in America is joking about it,” Siman said, “and we can’t.”

A spokesman for Chesney said the singer would have no comment.

The incident began after Chesney received permission to sit on one of the Mounted Division horses, which were used for security at the concert, from the adult daughter of Capt. James Coyle, who oversees the division.

Gallivan said children are sometimes allowed to sit on the horses but that Chesney was told he could not ride the horse. After riding off, he ignored repeated orders by deputies to dismount, the sheriff said.

Eoannou did not rule out the possibility a settlement could come in the case, but “at this point it’s scheduled to go to trial,” he said. McGraw, 33, is now charged with third-degree assault, obstructing governmental administration, menacing and resisting arrest. He is free on $2,500 bail. Chesney, 32, is charged with disorderly conduct and Russo, 44, is charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.