Joey Barton was cleared by magistrates following a trial
Premier League footballer Joey Barton has been cleared of vandalising a taxi during a night out in Liverpool.
The Newcastle United midfielder was acquitted by city magistrates following a half-day trial.
He was accused of smashing the radio in the taxi after an altercation outside a McDonald's restaurant.
But he was cleared when it was shown fingerprint evidence did not come from him, and his cousin, Joshua Wilson, admitted causing the damage.
During the trial at Liverpool Magistrates Court, the Crown Prosecution Service claimed Barton, a former Manchester City player, was with 19-year-old Mr Wilson in a taxi in the early hours of 4 March.
Robert Jansen, prosecuting, said Barton had become aggressive when the driver of the taxi, Michael Kay, had refused to queue at a McDonald's drive-through on Edge Lane.
It was alleged a row broke out and when Mr Kay refused to take the men to their destination, Barton, of Foxbank Close, Widnes, ripped out the cab radio.
However, the fingerprints on the smashed screen were not the footballer's and his cousin admitted to magistrates at the hearing that he had caused the damage.
The taxi driver, who said he initially did not recognise Barton, told the court Mr Wilson had paid him upfront to take the men and their girlfriends to McDonald's.
However, he claimed he would only wait if the men ordered at a serving hatch and said that he returned some of the money and asked them all to get out.
Although the girls did, the men refused so he drove them to a police station which was closed.
Mr Kay told the court Barton and his cousin insisted they had a full refund and began smashing the plastic partition.
He told magistrates he radioed for help from other drivers, claiming he had a "Yellow One" at which point the attack escalated.
He said: "I heard a crack, turned around and he was yanking and yanking and it smashed. He grabbed hold of me, he was strangling me."
Mr Kay and three other drivers who gave evidence claimed Barton and Mr Wilson, who is unemployed, managed to get out of the cab and run off.
However, Barton claimed a different version of events and told the court that after offering more money to persuade Mr Kay to use the drive through, he "started driving like a lunatic, really fast".
"I was starting to get scared and worried," he told the court, adding that he knew what a "Yellow One" was because his cousin's best friend had been intentionally run over by a taxi driver responding to such a call.
Hid in garden
Referring to the taxi driver, Barton told magistrates: "He didn't seem to be in control and seemed to be going really mad.
"I said 'Let's forget about the money and get out of the cab and get to safety', but he wouldn't stop the cab."
Mr Wilson, also of Widnes, told magistrates one of the drivers responding to Mr Kay's radio call had produced a rounders bat, taken off his glasses and shouted "come on Barton".
He added that when they fled the cab he and Barton hid behind a wheelie bin in a garden for an hour.
It took magistrates just 15 minutes to acquit Barton of the charge.
Earlier this month the 25-year-old was jailed for six months after admitting assault and affray for an incident in December.
The player had been captured on CCTV in Liverpool on 27 December punching one man 20 times before an attack which left a teenage boy with broken teeth.