An embattled former television star was caught up in a bizarre scene outside a Sydney court on Wednesday, with a member of the public pulling him in for a hug as he left the building.
Andrew O’Keefe, 51, sported a new look at the Downing Centre on Wednesday morning, where he appeared to set a hearing date to fight allegations of assault and intentionally choking a woman without consent.
Unshaven and rumpled, he stood silently before the court as his lawyer confirmed the date to defend the raft of charges.
And as he left court shortly afterwards, Mr O’Keefe was embraced by a local character who was a admirer of his television appearances.
The man approached the former game show host and gave him a handshake before pulling him into a hearty hug, which O’Keefe returned in kind.
The former TV show host appeared a bit surprised but took the exchange in stride before walking away from the courthouse.
Police allege the former host of the popular game show, The Chase Australia, grabbed a 38-year-old woman by the throat on January 25.
Police allege he then allegedly pushed her to the ground and punched her. Mr O’Keefe maintains he acted in self defence.
It is believed the pair met previously when the woman was a sex worker whom Mr O’Keefe had employed for her services before they developed a friendship.
Police claim they started arguing after he called in a debt for $20,000 and the woman asked for more money to further a business she planned to start.
Mr O’Keefe’s lawyer previously told the court that the woman grabbed a cricket bat and scissors and started to attack him, so he was forced to defend himself. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The former TV presenter spent almost five months in custody on remand after he was charged with the offences.
He was granted strict bail by the NSW Supreme Court in May to reside at a long-term residential rehabilitation facility in Port Stephens.
During his bail hearing, the Supreme Court judge noted Mr O’Keefe has long standing drug problems and mental health issues which appear to be trauma related.
The court heard on Wednesday the former television personality would return to court on February 6 and 7 for a two-day hearing to fight the charges against him.
“In relation to all of those matters, the hearing date … is confirmed,” Magistrate Brett Thomas said.
Mr O’Keefe will continue to reside at his home under strict bail conditions which mandate a weekly drug test.
The former host of Weekend Sunrise was arrested last month after he allegedly failed one of the drug tests.
He has faced a different kind of spotlight since the assault allegations came to light after a long career as a TV presenter on Channel 7.
Mr O’Keefe appeared as the face of many programs for the broadcaster, from Deal or No Deal to Weekend Sunrise.
He served on the National Council for the Prevention of Violence Against Women and founded the well-known White Ribbon Australia organisation dedicated to the cause.
In 2017, he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for his charity work and accomplishments in television.
Story Credit: news.com.au