Man surrenders to begin serving rest of sentence

NEW YORK -- A man who punched Boston Red Sox pitcher David Wells to the floor of a Manhattan diner, knocking out two of the lefty's teeth, surrendered Monday to finish his sentence for misdemeanor assault.

Rocco Graziosa, who came to Manhattan Criminal Court wearing a
dark blue, cotton velvet athletic warm-up suit, didn't have much to say.

"I'm not in a very good mood today," he replied when asked how he was doing.

Despite his self-defense claim, Graziosa, 30, of Yonkers, was
convicted Nov. 22, 2002, of third-degree assault for hitting Wells in a diner at First Avenue and 86th Street. He was sentenced to 45 days in jail.

Graziosa's lawyer, Henry Mazurek, said Wells is still pursuing the civil suit he filed in September 2003 against his client. Mazurek said he will take sworn statements about the incident from Wells in a deposition on Feb. 13.

At Graziosa's trial, Wells, then pitching for the Yankees, testified that on Sept. 7, 2002, the defendant caught him with a "sucker punch" that knocked out two teeth and caused him to cut his head on a table's edge as he tumbled to the diner's floor.

Graziosa claimed he had hit Wells in self-defense after a friendly chat among Graziosa, his two friends and the pitcher deteriorated into name-calling. He said he felt menaced by Wells and was afraid of him.

Graziosa served less than 20 days of the 45-day sentence before he was released pending appeal of his conviction. In November 2005, the state Supreme Court's Appellate Term voted 3-0 to uphold the guilty verdict.

The appellate panel wrote that "the defendant's conduct in 'lunging' at the complainant [Wells], punching him in the face and
attempting to kick him as he lay prone on the ground was legally
sufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant [Graziosa] assaulted the complainant without justification."

Mazurek said his client has 27 days left to serve. The lawyer said he will ask in the meantime for permission to appeal to a higher court so Graziosa can "try to clear his record."

In November, after the Appellate Term affirmation of the assault
conviction, Mazurek said his client was on probation after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges of fondling a 21-year-old woman who fell asleep during a New Year's party in a Yonkers house on Jan. 1, 2004.