London: Ryan Hale, a former soldier allegedly knocked out by Ben Stokes, said the England cricketer "could have killed me", their trial heard Thursday, as the ex-serviceman was formally cleared of affray.
Stokes, Hale and a third man, Ryan Ali, were in Bristol Crown Court on Thursday for the fourth day of their trial for alleged affray in the southwest English city on 25 September in 2017.
After the prosecution concluded its case against the three men, judge Peter Blair told the jury to find Hale not guilty.
"I am directing you to find him not guilty in my analysis of the evidence," Blair said.
Hale, 28, was formally found not guilty and invited to leave the dock.
The court has seen security camera footage of Stokes, 27, brawling with Hale and Ali in a Bristol street.
The prosecution has said Stokes first knocked out Hale, then 27-year-old Ali.
On Thursday, jurors heard that Hale told police in a formal interview: "I'm a dad. He could have killed me. I don't know why he didn't stop.
"He could have beaten the living hell out of me. It's shocking to see someone doing that to someone who didn't do anything wrong."
Stokes told the court on Thursday that he had traded jokes over clothes with William O'Connor and Kai Barry, two openly gay regulars at the Mbargo club, but then stepped in to defend them when they were subjected to homophobic abuse by Hale and his friend Ali.
"I am very clear that the words being used towards these two gentlemen were about them being gay," he said.
"I stepped in and said you shouldn't be saying those things to those two men.
"I was told by Mr Ali along the lines of 'Shut the fuck up or I'll bottle you'. I remember taking a swing at Mr Ali.
"I was protecting myself. I would say that I took a decision of what I did very quickly," Stokes added.
Hale said of Stokes: "There's no self-defence and he isn't defending anyone else.
The case against Stokes and Ali continues.