Former NRL star Sam Burgess has been found guilty of intimidating his ex-father-in-law during a heated argument about his children.
The disagreement began when Burgess, 32, was at Mitchell Hooke’s NSW Southern Highlands home in October 2019 and was told his visitation time had finished.
The two have previously given varying versions of events to Moss Vale Local Court, where Burgess pleaded not guilty to intimidation and an alternative charge of common assault.
Both agreed the former South Sydney captain had said the visitation issue was “inhumane” before things escalated.
On Friday, Magistrate Robert Rabbidge found Mr Hooke was an “impressive, believable and consistent” witness who gave “clear and concise” evidence.
He found Burgess guilty of intimidation, recorded a conviction and placed him on a two-year good behaviour bond.
Outside court, Burgess said he would appeal the verdict.
“I’m confused with the decision. We’ve appealed the decision. I’m innocent,” he said.
The prosecution claimed Burgess moved extremely close to Mr Hooke and threatened: “I’m going to get you”.
Burgess accused Mr Hooke of shouting, swearing and threatening him by saying: “I’m going to ruin your career if it’s the last thing I do.”
In court last month, Burgess admitted he exchanged profanities and called Mr Hooke “a f—ing piece of s–t”.
Mr Rabbidge said even on Burgess’s own evidence, he had destroyed the “peaceful environment” created for the children.
He noted Burgess had conceded Mr Hooke said “you would hit a 64-year-old man” during the argument
Mr Rabbidge said he found that “telling”.
“Surely, such words could only have been uttered after a close confrontational encounter,” the magistrate said.
He said while nobody besides the young children witnessed what happened inside the house, he noted evidence of Mr Hooke’s demeanour after the incident.
“What is incontrovertible in this case is the shock and distress that Mr Hooke displayed to his daughters and police.”
It indicated “a man who has gone through a terrifying experience”, Mr Rabbidge said.
Mr Hooke previously described Burgess’s “wild eyes”, said he was “terrified” and declared he had “never been threatened like that in my life”.
Mr Rabbidge said those were “powerful and believable” descriptions.
Mr Hooke’s daughter, Harriet Hooke, told the court her father was “white, pale and terrified” after the confrontation and described Burgess as red-faced, aggressive and with enlarged pupils
Burgess’s ex-wife Phoebe Burgess was on her way home at the time.
Burgess conceded he drank four schooners of beer at a pub before the visit but denied being affected by alcohol.
Friday’s decision was delayed after the court heard Mr Hooke wrote an email to the magistrate pointing out an old family connection and raising possible conflict.
But Mr Rabbidge said he’d lived in the region for 23 years, was well-familiar with thousands of people and that judicial officers “do not live in a vacuum”.
Burgess’s lawyer, Bryan Wrench, said the email was a total waste of time.
“It was an attempt to undermine the integrity of this court,” Mr Wrench said.