Domestic violence charges against NFL's Hardy dropped

By Steve Ginsburg

Feb 9 (Reuters) - Domestic violence charges were abruptly dropped on Monday against Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy after his accuser could not be found to testify, prosecutors said.

The jury trial for Hardy, 26, had been set to begin in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Monday. He was accused of assaulting his former girlfriend, Nicole Holder, and threatening to kill her.

"The victim appears to have intentionally made herself unavailable to the state," the District Attorney's Office said in a statement. "Without her testimony in this particular instance, the state could not proceed."

Hardy, a five-year NFL veteran, was found guilty by a district court judge in July but, under North Carolina law, appealed the verdict and was then allowed to have a jury trial.

The National Football League placed Hardy on the commissioner's exempt list in September, meaning he was taken off the field but continued to receive his $13.1 million salary.

Hardy's suspension will remain in effect until the matter is reviewed, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said after the case was dismissed.

Several of the NFL's top players, including Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice, were charged with domestic violence in 2014, prompting the league to overhaul its personal conduct policy.

Sharply criticized for being too lenient on domestic violence and sexual assault, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made the penalties for such crimes much harsher than in the past.

Hardy, a 2013 Pro Bowler who played only one game for the Panthers before being suspended last season, will become a free agent next month and it was uncertain if Carolina would re-sign the former sixth-round draft choice out of Mississippi.

"Greg remains on the commissioner's exempt list and the NFL has advised us to allow it to complete its review under the Personal Conduct Policy," the Panthers said in a statement. "There is no change in his status at this time."

He was accused of assaulting Holder at his Charlotte condominium in May, sending her to the hospital emergency room.

Prosecutors said when she last spoke with them in November, Holder told them that she "did not want to participate in another trial."

Holder has already reached a civil settlement with Hardy, prosecutors said.

Hardy, wearing a dark suit and white tennis shoes, left the Mecklenburg County Courthouse without speaking to reporters. (Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Mohammad Zargham, Eric Beech and Eric Walsh)

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