Senator's daughter claims self-defense after punching teen in face during restaurant fight

Published: Oct. 17, 2012 at 5:15 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 27, 2012 at 5:15 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, SC (WIS) – A surveillance video from inside a Lexington restaurant from earlier this year shows Lexington County state Sen. Jake Knotts' grandson assaulting another boy before the senator's daughter, who told police she was defending herself, punches the victim in the face.

The 31-second fight happened on February 1 inside the Wild Hare, a restaurant/bar on Augusta Highway in Lexington. The video shows the 16-year-old victim and his friend walk into the restaurant, then Knotts' grandson gets out of a booth and starts punching the victim in the face.

According to police, the boys involved in the fight were at odds in school earlier that day. "They had contact with the SRO," said Lexington Police Lieutenant Matt Davis. "The SRO counseled them and they were sent on their way."

Hours later, they happened to meet up in the restaurant.

The video shows that Knotts' grandson was seated at the booth with his mother, Nikki Rodgers, who is the director of Lexington County's E911 system.

As the two boys fought, Nikki gets out of her booth and walks toward the boys. A second video angle shows Rodgers' son and the victim exchanging multiple punches when Nikki and five other patrons try to pull the boys apart. One patron holds Rodgers' son while two other men restrain the victim and ended the fight.

The video shows, once the boys are separated, Rodgers uses her right hand to hit the victim in the face with a closed-fist. At that point, the recording stops.

According to a police incident report, Rodgers claimed the boy punched her in the neck as she was attempting to break up the fight and that she only struck him in self-defense.

We obtained the video last week after a source provided a copy. Lexington Police responded and filed a report. Officers also collected the restaurant's video of the fight and filed it as evidence. Our source, who released the video to us on the condition of anonymity, said it took so long to release because they wanted to give Lexington Police time to thoroughly investigate the case. Our source released it to us after learning LPD would not press charges in the assault.

Police say the victim didn't want to prosecute Rodgers or her so, so they closed the case.

"Without their testimony in court -- a prosecution -- you can't prosecute if you don't have anybody to stand up and testify in regards to what happened," said Davis.  Reporter: "Despite the fact that there's video evidence of every second of this?" Davis: "Absolutely. It's a crime against an individual. So, for the judge to find somebody guilty, the victim needs to come in and say, 'I was there, this is what happened.'"

We spent more than two hours outside Rodgers' office Wednesday, awaiting a call to get her side of this story. Rodgers never returned our message.

We also reached out to the victim's grandmother, who is the boy's legal guardian, for comment on this case. The woman declined an interview.

The source who gave us this video did so thinking there may be some favoritism being shown here for the senator's family.

The police department says that's not true. Last year, officers say out of 8,000 crime reports 220 victims declined prosecution.

As for charges for either of the senator's relatives, Lexington police say it's "case closed."

Copyright 2012 WIS. All rights reserved.