Trials set for five Indiana players
Rochester Hills, MI (Sports Network) – The five members of the Indiana Pacers charged in connection with a November brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills will have their trials heard beginning August 1.
Ron Artest, Anthony Johnson, David Harrison, Jermaine O’Neal and Stephen Jackson are charged with misdemeanor assault and battery and were granted separate jury trials.
Artest will start the proceedings on August 1, and will be followed by Johnson, Harrison, O’Neal and Jackson. Judge Lisa Asadoorian announced the schedules Friday during pre-trial hearings with the players and their attorneys at U.S. District Court in Oakland County.
Four Detroit Pistons fans charged in the melee also appeared in court Friday. Bill Paulson and John Ackerman will go to trial on July 11. John Green, who helped spark the brawl by tossing a beverage at Artest, will have his case heard on July 15 along with David Wallace, brother of Pistons center Ben Wallace.
A fan charged with throwing a chair pleaded no contest last month and is expected to be sentenced in May.
The infamous brawl involving spectators and players broke out near the end of the November 19 game between the Pacers and Pistons after an on-court dispute over a foul.
The contest was stopped with 45 seconds left in the fourth quarter and Indiana was credited with a 97-82 victory. With the Pacers ahead by 15 points, things unraveled when Ben Wallace was fouled by Artest and the Pistons’ center took exception to what he deemed a hard foul and gave Artest a two- handed push to the face.
After that, the pushing and shoving continued by the scorers’ table as players came off both benches. The Detroit fans then lost control and began throwing cups filled with liquid and ice at Artest, who was surprisingly staying out of harm’s way on top of the scorers’ table. Artest was hit in the head by a flying cup and immediately raced into the stands and started punching whom he thought was the culprit.
Jackson followed into the crowd, along with several other players, and started swinging away at the unruly fans.
Two days after the disgraceful incident, NBA commissioner David Stern issued harsh penalties, including the suspension of Artest for the remainder of the season. In addition, the NBA issued a revised set of arena guidelines to all teams. The guidelines consisted of policies dealing with security, alcohol sales and fan behavior.