NRL veteran Scott Bolton has escaped conviction after admitting drunkenly touching a woman’s upper thigh as she tried to move away from him in a Sydney bar.
The North Queensland Cowboys prop, 31, had formally denied a charge of indecent assault against the woman at Bondi Beach Public Bar in May 2018.
In Waverley Local Court on Monday, following discussions with police, that charge was withdrawn and Bolton entered his plea to the lesser charge of common assault.
The agreed facts state the woman was sitting alone on a sofa and using her mobile phone when Bolton approached and gave her a high-five to get her attention.
He “slumped down” next to her but she moved along the seat “in an attempt to distance herself from him” and then tried to leave by pushing past Bolton’s legs.
“Whilst doing so the accused reached forward, touching the victim’s upper thigh,” the facts state.
The woman approached bar staff and police became involved, with the entire incident captured on CCTV.
The player was interviewed by police on May 11 and identified himself in the footage but “was unable to elaborate on full details”.
The facts state his inability to recollect the incident appeared to be related to his level of intoxication at the time of the offence.
Bolton was on Monday handed a 12-month conditional release order and escaped conviction.
“Mr Bolton is not placed on a pedestal by the court, he is expected to behave as any other member of the public behaves,” magistrate Greg Grogin said.
The magistrate noted the high-profile rugby league player has been scrutinised by the media, club officials, the public and “no doubt his family”.
“[But] it can’t be forgotten that Mr Bolton put himself in the spotlight by committing an offence,” the magistrate said.
At the time of the assault, the Cowboys were in camp in Sydney having played the Penrith Panthers the previous day, May 4.
Bolton was charged on May 6 and later fronted reporters to tearfully say he couldn’t speak about the matter because of police and NRL integrity unit investigations.
Outside court on Monday, Cowboys football manager Peter Parr said the facts “confirm Scott’s insistence that he never touched the complainant in an indecent way”.
“Scott pleaded guilty to the common assault and the court accepted that there was no indecent conduct or violence on his part,” Mr Parr told reporters.
“It’s been a difficult process for all involved so we just want to move on now and get ready for our season.”
Bolton made his NRL debut with the Cowboys in 2007 and helped guide them to the 2015 premiership.
He played 13 more games in 2018 after the incident, with the team finishing the season 13th on the ladder.
The 31-year-old is expected to make a statement later on Monday.