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The Florida State University quarterback seen on video punching a woman in the face was fighting back after being provoked, his lawyer told NBC News.
De'Andre Johnson, 19, has been charged with battery following the June 24 incident at a Tallahassee club. The freshman player was kicked off the FSU football team after surveillance video emerged which appeared to show the freshman quarterback taking a swing at the unidentified woman.
According to his lawyer, Johnson was not the initial aggressor — but is "owning this" and trying to learn from the experience.
The woman raised her fist and shouted "racial epithets" at Johnson when the player accidentally made contact when he was walking up to the bar, lawyer Jose Baez told NBC News.
Johnson "tried to deescalate the situation" but the woman "kneed him in the groin area" and "took another swing before he retaliated," the attorney added.
"It wasn't until she struck him twice that he reacted," Baez said. "But he is very...He is very regretful that he didn't turn around and walk away immediately."
"He makes no excuses for what happened," he added.
Baez called Johnson's dismissal from the football team "unfortunate" and said his client is now volunteering at a shelter for battered women.
"All he wants to do is learn from this experience and move on and get an education," Baez said. "We certainly don't want him to pay for the rest of his life for an incident that occurred in a bar."
Court documents said the victim was trying to defend herself after she was pushed and grabbed by Johnson. A witness heard the victim yell “no” at Johnson twice before he punched her in the face, according to an affidavit.
The victim — who has declined comment to NBC News — suffered bruising under her left eye, swelling to the left cheek and a small cut near the bridge of her nose in the incident.