The chicken or the truck?
That's what a jury of eight men and four women were left to consider in deliberating attempted homicide and aggravated assault charges stemming from the stabbing last year of Steelers offensive lineman Mike Adams.
Was he stabbed, as the prosecution said, because the three defendants wanted to steal Mr. Adams' Ford pickup truck from the South Side about 3 a.m.?
Or was he stabbed, as the defense contended, because the 6-foot-7-inch man knocked chicken shish kebabs out of the hands of one of the men, ultimately causing a fight?
It took the jury about five hours to pick a side: All three Hazelwood men were found not guilty Wednesday afternoon.
Michael Paranay, 26, was acquitted on all counts.
The jury found co-defendant Dquay Means, 26, guilty of one count of escape after he ran from detectives attempting to question him after the incident; and Jerrell Whitlock, 27, was found guilty of flight to avoid apprehension when he fled to Florida.
All three men have been in custody at the Allegheny County Jail since their arrests.
Mr. Paranay was set to be released late Wednesday or today, said his defense attorney, Randall McKinney.
"It's been a long, hard road," he said.
Attorneys for Mr. Means expect to ask for time-served for their client.
Mr. Adams was not present for the verdict and had not been in the courtroom since the day he testified last week. A representative for the Steelers said they had no comment.
The defendants were initially charged with attempted homicide, conspiracy and attempted robbery stemming from the incident June 1 at 17th and East Carson streets on the South Side.
Mr. Adams told police he had been sitting inside his truck eating a Jimmy John's sandwich just before 3 a.m., and when he exited, someone made a comment about his truck.
Next, he said, Mr. Means showed him a gun and threatened to kill him, and Mr. Paranay sucker-punched him in the face.
Mr. Adams testified that Mr. Whitlock was the one who stabbed him.
But the defense argued from the beginning that Mr. Adams, who had a blood-alcohol content of .18 was drunk and belligerent after he knocked Mr. Paranay's food from his hands, and the dispute escalated into a fight.
Throughout the weeklong trial, the attorneys also claimed there was a cover-up to protect Mr. Adams because he's a member of the Steelers. They pointed to a missing toxicology test from the hospital where he was treated; missing video surveillance footage from Nakama Japanese Steakhouse near where the assault occurred; and Mr. Adams' changing story as proof.
During closing arguments Tuesday, Mr. Means' attorney, Fred Rabner, told the jury that it wasn't until after Mr. Adams met with Jack Kearney, an Allegheny County sheriff's lieutenant and head of Steelers security, that he said anything about the assailants trying to steal his truck.
Following the verdict, William Difenderfer, who represents Mr. Whitlock, disclaimed any allegations of a cover-up.
"In terms of Jack Kearney, there's no evidence he concocted or helped in any way to misinform the court," Mr. Difenderfer said. "To say Mr. Kearney was involved in it is ludicrous."
The families of the defendants, who had been present throughout the trial, celebrated the verdict in the hallway with hugs for each other and the attorneys.
"I'm ecstatic," said Bill Paranay, Michael's father. "Justice was served, and my boy's coming home."
Mr. Rabner referred repeatedly to his client as an up-and-coming rap star recently signed by Wiz Khalifa who had no reason to steal a truck from the South Side.
"The system worked the way it's supposed to."
Paula Reed Ward: email@example.com, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard. First Published April 30, 2014 4:55 PM