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Published: Tuesday, 12/7/2004

Charges expected in melee with fans

BY STEVE EDER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca is expected to bring charges tomorrow against fans and players who participated in last month's Pistons-Pacers brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

The prosecutor announced yesterday that Auburn Hills police filed the results of their investigation and all of the major suspects in the fight had been identified. Assistant prosecutors are in the final stages of reviewing evidence and determining which players and fans would face criminal charges, as the investigation continues.

A joint news conference with the prosecutor and police is planned for 2 p.m. tomorrow in Pontiac, Mich., where charges are expected to be announced.

"Warrants will be issued based largely upon the numerous and lengthy videotapes as well as approximately 1,000 pages of reports," a statement released by Mr. Gorcyca's office said. "Everyone involved in the violation of a state law will be held accountable, regardless of their stature at the game."

The melee at the Pacers-Pistons contest on Nov. 19 ensued after Ron Artest, a member of the Pacers, committed a hard foul against Pistons' Ben Wallace, even though the visiting team led by 15 points. Wallace then pushed Artest in the neck, igniting an on-court shoving match between members of both squads.

Artest avoided the skirmish until a fan tossed a beverage onto his chest as he laid on the scorer's table. Artest and some teammates, including Stephen Jackson, hurdled chairs and rushed into the stands to fight with fans, throwing several punches.

Jackson, Artest, and teammate Jermaine O'Neal, also fought with fans on the court before being showered by beer and popcorn as they left the floor.

Artest received a season-ending suspension, while Jackson was banned for 30 games, and O'Neal was suspended for 25 games, all without pay. They are appealing their suspensions.

Six other players, including Wallace, were suspended for up to six games.

Pacers' players declined requests to be interviewed by Auburn Hills police. The prosecutor's office said the investigation was conducted with "thoroughness," despite the "intense media scrutiny."

Police have identified one Pistons' fan believed to have tossed the cup at Artest and another fan who allegedly threw a chair during the melee that struck several people, including a police offer.

The fan who threw the chair could be charged with felony assault, while other players and fans involved in the brawl would likely face misdemeanor assault and battery charges, the prosecutor has said.

Contact Steve Eder at:

seder@theblade.com

or 419-724-6728.



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