Ride, Chesney, Ride

When Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney announced their stadium tour, one thing seemed to be forgotten: the last time they toured together, they had a crazy moment with a horse named Chico.

In June 2000, McGraw and Chesney were headlining the George Strait Country Music Festival at Buffalo, N.Y.’s Ralph Wilson Stadium (which is conspicuously absent on this tour’s roster). After their set, Chesney asked the daughter of Erie County Sheriff’s Office. Capt. James Coyle if he could sit on her father’s thoroughbred. Chesney apparently wanted to surprise McGraw’s kids back at the VIP area.

Sharlene Turner, the daughter, said sure. No dispute there. But when Chesney rode off, things got complicated.

Photo: AP Photo
"A Decade of Difference," Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, Calif.

Turner later testified that she only gave Chesney permission to hop on the horse, but shouted “stop, stop” when he took off. Chesney said she wasn’t that concerned with it, having jumped onto the golf cart he had been riding with his road manager.

Chesney made it to the VIP area before police officers caught up to him in their patrol car. Sgt. Mark Rokitka and Detective Arthur Litzinger said they ordered Chesney to get down off the horse and when he refused, they yanked him down. Chesney disputed that, saying the officers went straight into aggressive mode.

Enter McGraw, who was following Chesney and said he rushed to the aide of his friend (the two have known each other for 20 years, having lived in the same apartment complex way back when).  He claimed he wanted to make sure Chesney didn’t hit the pavement.

The officers claim McGraw put Litzinger in a headlock, then attacked Rokitka who had to defend himself with his nightstick. McGraw later testified that it was all Rokitka and his nightstick, with Litzinger even telling his fellow officer, “Calm down. We’ve made a mistake.”

And, according to McGraw and Chesney, they testified inside Orchard Park Town Court a year later because they refused plea bargains and wanted to clear their name. Which they did, with reportedly lots of charm and humor.

For instance, the prosecutor asked Chesney how tall he was, and the country star replied “Five foot eight,” with McGraw and the defense table giving a lot of hoots of derision. Chesney, five foot seven, then asked, “Is that perjury?”

Photo: AP Photo
CMA Music Festival, Nashville, Tenn.

McGraw faced up to a year in prison for misdemeanor charges. Chesney faced 15 days in jail for disorderly persons violation. However, both got off pretty quickly, and signed autographs for 100 fans that attended. The fact that they were not allowed to wear their cowboy hats to the proceedings and revealed their chrome domes to the world did not seem to matter. McGraw did say that it cost him well north of $100,000 to prove his innocence.

Erie County Sheriff Patrick Gallivan was not as excited with the jury decision, telling reporters the jury made the job of police officers more difficult.

At the time, McGraw had the No. 2 country hit in the country and Chesney had No. 3 but some said the incident elevated Chesney’s status with the public. It certainly didn’t hurt any.