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 would likely face only fines and
probation if they have clean records. Two other spectators were
charged with violating a local ordinance for walking onto the
Gorcyca said there was no video evidence that any Pistons
players threw punches.
Lawyers for two players and one of the fans said their actions
had been reasonable in the context of the chaos that erupted.
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
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
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
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
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.