Sean Avery is finally having his day in court

Sean Avery grinned and slammed into the air as he left a Manhattan courtroom Wednesday morning.

“What a day,” the former New York Rangers player told reporters. “What a great day. New York City taxpayer money at work.”

Avery, a Canadian now living in California, had just finished the first day of his likely brief trial — expected to last two or three days — on a criminal mischief charge that carries a maximum sentence of three months. The path here had been long and undulating. In February 2019, prosecutors alleged that Avery slammed his electric scooter into the side of a minibus after a dispute with the driver, venture capitalist Jonathan Schulhof, and his wife, Kimberly Kravis, the daughter of private-equity billionaire and Republican donor Henry Kravis. The couple had three of their children in the back seat.

In the more than three years since, Avery rejected several plea offers and pushed for a jury trial instead. At a hearing in April The New York Times reported, Avery stated in Manhattan Criminal Court, “I would like to move forward by representing myself,” urging his then-lawyer, Dmitry Shakhnevich, to leave the courtroom. In the end, the hockey player got his wish for a trial, but only a bench trial — a trial in which a judge would make a decision alone. Avery hired another lawyer anyway, and Jason Goldman represented him in court on Wednesday.

“In this crazy city we live in,” Goldman said in his opening remarks, “it wasn’t that uncommon.”

While still playing hockey and after retiring in 2012, Avery expanded his career as a notorious agitator on the ice with a growing list of extracurricular activities: modeling, acting, advertising, dancing with the stars, internship at Fashion (which, like vanity purse, is published by Condé Nast). Chief among these passions was posting videos on Instagram in which Avery confronted and scolded anyone he saw occupying a bike path on the streets of New York City.

“If I have to be the poster boy for defending the bike lanes, I absolutely will,” he told the New York Post after a court appearance in June 2019. “We just need to be able to cycle in freedom.”

Avery arrived in court on Wednesday wearing aviator goggles. Schulhof testified that Avery grabbed his scooter and “used it as a bat” and then ran away after chuckling at Kravis. Goldman and Schulhof spent most of the morning arguing over the semantics of the words to observe and verbatim. Avery alternated between taking notes in a red pen and staring at Schulhof.

Prosecutors pointed out early in the day that Avery had used his podcast the week before to name some of the witnesses — Schulhof and Kravis — and urged Rangers fans to pack up the courthouse as the trial began. In practice, the effect was not nearly as dramatic as the statement of support by Johnny Depp fans during the actor’s recent defamation lawsuit against Amber heard, which Avery invokes when submitting the request. Of the approximately 20 spectators in the courtroom, one wore an Avery Rangers jersey, while another wore a Rangers hat.

Still, Avery made every effort to pose for photos with fans outside the courthouse after today’s trial concluded. One of them, Anna Tilson, said she joined the Rangers after arriving in New York from Poland 16 years ago. “It’s just part of the culture here in New York,” she said.

Tillison said she tried to be diplomatic about the incident but ultimately leaned on Avery: “I’d say let’s just let the past pass and not bring it back.”