Hayden Panettiere's boyfriend, Brian Hickerson, has pleaded not guilty to one charge of domestic battery after allegedly punching the actress in the face in February, reported Us Weekly on Thursday. Hickerson, who also pleaded not guilty to one count of interfering with the peace officer, had been subjected to a restraining order against Panettiere since February, but entered his plea on April 9 via a video conference amid the coronavirus pandemic. The 30-year-old is scheduled for a pre-trial conference in August and a jury trial in September.
Hickerson was arrested in February after a fight with the actress in which he was accused of hitting her with "a closed fist" on the side of her face, according to legal documents obtained by the outlet, during a couple's vacation to Jackson, Wyoming. This isn't the first time Hickerson has been accused of alleged domestic violence during his relationship with the Heroes alum, having been arrested in May 2019 after an alleged argument with the actress. While the case was dismissed four months later, a judge issued a protective order against Hickerson requiring him to stay 100 yards away from Panettiere.
At the time of the February incident, a source told Us Weekly that Hickerson has "isolated Hayden from friends and family." They added, "Don't blame the victim. She sadly fell in love with a man that hits women. He is violent but can also be incredibly charming. It's unlikely this will be enough for Hayden to break it off, permanently."
The insider added at the time that the Nashville alum "believed Brian would never hit her again," which is why she didn't "materialize as a witness against him in the Los Angeles case," but had a far less optimistic view of their relationship's future. "Hayden is in danger with Brian," the source said. "Add impairment issues from drinking too much and it will have a tragic outcome if she continues the relationship."
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential support.