Russell Crowe arrested for assault and possession of weapon

NEW YORK - Actor Russell Crowe has been charged with assault and criminal possession of a weapon after throwing a telephone at a hotel employee, police and prosecutors said.

The Oscar-winner, who plays a boxer in his new movie "Cinderella Man," was arrested early on Monday and later released on his own recognisance after being taken in handcuffs to his arraignment at Manhattan Criminal Court.

A Manhattan district attorney's office spokeswoman said Crowe faced up to eight years in jail if found guilty of both the assault charge and a charge of fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon - the telephone.

The spokeswoman said the assault charge could attract a maximum jail term of seven years, and the other charge could attract a one-year prison sentence.

Police said New Zealand-born Crowe, 41, got into an argument with the concierge at the Mercer Street Hotel shortly after 4am local time. Crowe was upset because he could not get a call through to his wife in Australia.

Police said Crowe threw a telephone at the concierge, identified by police as a 28-year-old man, who was hit in the face and suffered minor lacerations.

The concierge was taken to hospital and released after treatment.

A spokeswoman for Crowe said he had thrown the phone at a wall and did not assault anyone.

Assistant District Attorney Chad Sjoquist told Judge Martin Murphy during Monday's hearing that there were witnesses to the incident.

Crowe's lawyer, Gerald Lefcourt, said the actor became frustrated when he was unable to get the call through, went to the lobby and got into an argument with the hotel worker.

"He (Crowe) has never been arrested in this country," Lefcourt said. "He is very, very charitable, a decent human being with an excellent background."

Sjoquist told the judge that Crowe had admitted to police that he had thrown the phone but the actor's publicist offered a different version of the incident.

"After asking the front desk several times to replace a faulty phone in his room ... Crowe brought the phone down to the front desk in an effort to address the situation in person," publicist Robin Baum told the TV show "Extra."

"Words were exchanged and Crowe wound up throwing the phone against the wall. He regrets that he lost his temper but at no time did he assault anyone."

Crowe, wearing blue jeans, a dark blue studded jacket and aviator-style sunglasses, was released without bail. He made no comment as he moved past hordes of media waiting outside the courthouse before getting into a waiting car.

He was ordered to return to court on September 14.

Crowe is in New York promoting his latest film, "Cinderella Man," about the life of heavyweight boxing champion James J. Braddock. He won an Oscar for best actor in 2001 for his role in "Gladiator" and also was nominated for "The Insider" and "A Beautiful Mind."

- REUTERS

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