STILLWATER — During a preliminary hearing on Monday, a pregnant woman testified that she was punched and choked by former Oklahoma State football player Tyreek Hill.

Crystal Espinal, who alleges that she was assaulted on Dec. 11, and Hill were in Judge Kathy Thomas’ Payne County courtroom on Monday.

Hill has been charged with domestic assault and battery by strangulation — a felony punishable by one to three years in prison and/or a $3,000 fine. One day after the alleged attack — and only six days after he scored on a 92-yard, fourth-quarter punt return to help OSU defeat Oklahoma in the Bedlam game at Norman — Hill was dismissed from the Cowboy football program.

Espinal told police in December that she and Hill had been dating since June. According to information given to Stillwater police, her age was 20 at the time of the incident and she now would be in her fifth month of pregnancy. She testified on Monday that she and Hill had sex during the evening of Dec. 11, and then “were planning on going to the movies” when he became angered by messages he saw on her phone.

Hill “threw my laptop (and) my phone into the hallway” before ordering her to leave his apartment, Espinal testified. She said she was in the hallway outside of Hill’s room, but did not leave because she wearing only a T-shirt and underwear. After she reentered the apartment, “domestic violence occurred,” she said.

In response to questions from Payne County Assistant District Attorney Lynn Hermanson, Espinal said that Hill “punched my face. ... When I tried to get up, I was put into a chokehold (for) longer than a minute.”

Espinal, who at the time of the alleged attack told police investigators that she was pregnant with Hill’s child, said Hill punched her stomach “on the left side,” and after that “grabbed my neck ... and started choking me again. ... He was pounding my head against the wall. He eventually stopped.”

When asked why she believes Hill stopped with his alleged attack, Espinal replied, “I think he had a realization moment.”


Related archive stories


Thomas scheduled a trial-court arraignment for April 17.

“At that time,” Hill’s defense attorney Cheryl Ramsey said, “we will enter a plea of not guilty.”

A trial may not begin until the spring of 2016, Ramsey said.

The 21-year-old Hill no longer attends Oklahoma State and resides again in his home state of Georgia. During his court appearance on Monday, he was accompanied by family members. Hill did not respond to hallway questions from media members. It is not known whether he will attempt to play elsewhere this fall.

After two seasons at Garden City (Kansas) Community College, Hill signed with OSU after having been recruited also by Oklahoma, Alabama, Southern Cal, Baylor, Arkansas, Arizona State, Georgia, Nebraska and Tennessee, among others. Hill finished the 2014 season with rankings of No. 2 in the Big 12 and No. 11 nationally in all-purpose yards (150.9 per game). Big 12 coaches voted him the league’s offensive newcomer of the year, and he also was a member of the Associated Press’ all-conference team.

Presented as evidence on Monday were photographs of Espinal’s injuries sustained during the alleged attack. The photographs were taken by Stillwater police Sgt. Kyle Bruce, who testified on Monday that Espinal “seemed distraught” when he interviewed her on Dec. 12, and that there were “injuries on her face and neck that were visible.”

In the original Stillwater police report, Espinal was said to have told an investigating officer that Hill “threw her around like a ragdoll. ... She explained Tyreek has a volatile temper and that he thought it was OK to punch and choke her.”