Dec. 8: Oakland County prosecutor David Gorcyca explains the charges against Pacers players and fans in the brawl in Detroit.
PONTIAC, Mich. - After weeks of poring over videotape from one of the worst fights in U.S. sports history, prosecutors filed charges against five Indiana Pacers players and seven Detroit fans.
Pacers players Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, David Harrison and Anthony Johnson were charged Wednesday with single counts of assault and battery, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of about three months in jail and a fine of up to $500.
Jermaine O’Neal, a three-time NBA All-Star, was charged with two counts of assault and battery for his actions in the brawl at the end of a game last month.
Five fans were charged with misdemeanor assault and battery, including Pistons star Ben Wallace’s brother, David.
Fan Bryant Jackson also was charged with felony assault for throwing a chair. That crime is punishable by up to four years in prison, but he could get up to eight years because he has prior convictions, Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca said.
The other fans and players most likely would face only fines and probation if they have clean records. Two other spectators were charged with violating a local ordinance for walking onto the court.
Gorcyca said there was no video evidence that any Pistons players threw punches.
Gorcyca said one man was more to blame than the others: John Green of Oakland County’s West Bloomfield Township faces two assault counts and is the man accused of throwing the cup that sparked the brawl.
“I would like to hold Mr. Green more accountable, because had not he thrown that cup and struck Artest, we wouldn’t be here today,” the prosecutor said.
Gorcyca personally identified the 39-year-old Green early in the investigation because they were neighbors years ago in the Detroit area. Green also has a prior record, so his penalty could be stiffer if he is convicted, Gorcyca said.
Green’s lawyer, Shawn Smith, called the charges against his client “outrageous and the worst kind of politics” and said the prosecutor was caving to the big business of basketball by “picking on the little guy.”
“He’s setting an example,” Smith said of Gorcyca. “And I’m all for setting an example, but tell him to leave the game, don’t prosecute him.”
The fight among spectators and players broke out near the end of a Nov. 19 game at The Palace of Auburn Hills after an on-court dispute over a foul. Gorcyca said Green threw a drink at Artest, who then charged into the stands and attacked a man he thought had done it. Other Pacers followed him, and the brawl spread through the stands and then back on the court, as some fans walked down to confront the players.
David Wallace is one of three fans who face only a single count each of misdemeanor assault and battery. The others are John Ackerman of Grand Rapids and William Paulson of Grand Blanc, each accused of throwing a cup or liquid substance at players.
Auburn Hills Police Chief Doreen Olko said Charlie Haddad and Alvin “A.J.” Shackelford, both of Burt, are charged with violating a local ordinance that prohibits fans from entering the court. That violation is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine, Lt. James Manning said.
Olko said investigators planned to continue trying to identify all fans who entered the court during the fight and those who dumped drinks and debris on players as they exited the floor. Gorcyca said more charges could be filed.
Pacers chief executive Donnie Walsh said he would not comment until the cases were resolved. “In the meantime, we will continue to support our players in every possible way for the duration of these proceedings and afterward,” he said.
Bloomfield Hills attorney James W. Burdick, who represents Stephen Jackson, said it was “unfair and inappropriate” to charge his client for his actions during the brawl. Jackson is seen in TV footage punching fans in the stands.
“The problem is this: a few crazed drunken fans who created a chaotic situation,” Burdick said. “Steve responded in a way that he thought was necessary to protect himself and protect his friends.”
Investigators studied 10 video feeds and more than 1,000 pages of police reports and witness statements, Gorcyca said.
Now that arrest warrants have been issued, those charged are required to turn themselves in. Bryant Jackson appeared briefly before a judge at 52nd District Court in Rochester Hills on Wednesday.
Jackson told the judge that he has a prior conviction for carrying a concealed weapon nine years ago and a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction three or four years ago.
NBA commissioner David Stern has suspended Artest for the rest of the season. Stephen Jackson was banned for 30 games, O’Neal for 25, and other players received shorter suspensions.
NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik said Wednesday the league has cooperated with the police and prosecutors and does not anticipate further player discipline.
The players’ union is appealing the suspensions of Artest, Jackson and O’Neal, and a grievance hearing is scheduled for Thursday in New York.
Palace president Tom Wilson said all seven fans charged in the brawl have been banned from the Palace.
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