Moment of truth: Chris Judd arrives at the AFL Tribunal. Photo: Pat Scala
CHRIS Judd went with the ''I didn't inhale'' defence made infamous by Bill Clinton a few years ago when he was accused of smoking dope.
It went like this. Judd admitted to misconduct in that he grabbed the right arm of North Melbourne's Leigh Adams as he lay on the turf at Etihad Stadium last Friday night. He was contrite and he was apologetic.
But he would have none of the AFL's submission that what happened next - Adams partially dislocating his shoulder - was intentional, and had the potential to cause serious injury.
Thus hung one of the most high-profile cases in AFL tribunal history. The AFL's charge sheet called the act ''intentional'' and referred to the action as ''unsportsmanlike'' and ''likely to bring the game into disrepute''.
Judd's counsel argued it was ''reckless'', which draws a lower level of activation points set out in the league's punitive guidelines.
For three hours the legal eagles thrashed this around before Judd's fate would be known. At 9.06pm, jury member Wayne Schimmelbusch said the tribunal had applied 450 demerit points to Judd, who will not resume until the round-21 clash with Essendon, by which time Carlton's season might well be defined.
It was standing-room only for the biggest case of the season, and one of the biggest for years. Judd came in a crisp, blue Carlton suit with a nick above his right eye and a closely-shaven head, looking as calm as you can be under football's version of a hellfire. But his tension was plain when the AFL's counsel, Jeff Gleeson, questioned him about his motives in grabbing Adams' arm.
''I'm not trying to wriggle out of this,'' Judd said. ''I'm not pinning it on anyone else. I openly admit it was the wrong thing to do, and I'm here to cop my whack.''
And so he did, four matches on the sidelines just when the Blues are engaged in a dogfight to even reach the top eight, having stated their desire to go top four.
There were one or two moments of levity as one of the game's greatest and most highly decorated players had his reputation go on the line. At one adjournment, hulking jury member and assistant commissioner of Victoria Police Emmett Dunne accidentally knocked a jug of water over on the desk occupied by Gleeson.
When Gleeson later was asked to read the report filed by the North Melbourne club doctor, he noted that ''mine's a bit wet''. Tribunal chairman David Jones chipped in: ''You can blame the assistant commissioner.''
Judd's case was simple enough. He said he grabbed Adams' arm to prevent him from attempting to dispose of the ball in a tackle already laid by Andrew Carrazzo, and to win a free kick. He said there were ''three other variables'', including the fact that Adams was moving, that led to the North player's arm being twisted up. When he realised Adams was ''vulnerable'', he let go.
''It [the injury] was the unintended consequence, which I feel very bad about,'' Judd said.
Judd said he had no clue that Adams had a pre-existing shoulder injury, and had no intent to hurt him. He and his counsel, Simon Wilson, QC, argued this was an act of recklessness, rather than malice.
The AFL, through Gleeson, did not try to suggest Judd deliberately injured Adams, or that he knew Adams had an already-injured shoulder. But Gleeson went hard. Summing up, he said: ''In my submission, it is difficult to see this as anything other than a sharp and forceful pull of Adams' arm up and behind his back for no legitimate reason. Adams was pinned and defenceless and Judd knew that.''
The penalty was at the discretion of the jury, and not guided by the points system used by the match review panel. Judd could have copped eight or 10 matches. Gleeson argued for a base of 425-550 points (four or five matches), plus 30 per cent loading for a suspension in the past three years. He also suggested Judd's admission of guilt should not be taken into account. ''He hasn't accepted the nub of the allegation, the heart of the allegation.''
Wilson argued for a two or three-match penalty. The jury went between those extremes.
No one will know whether the jury of Schimmelbusch, Emmett Dunne and Wayne Henwood applied the 30 per cent loading. Schimmelbusch simply announced the penalty, and that was that. Carlton said it would ''consider its options'' overnight.
But it is highly unlikely the club will appeal. Judd has had his hearing, and he is wearing the stain. It is up to the dual Brownlow medallist to wipe it away now, however long that takes.