Law-breaking football fans face swift justice in stadium court
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Unruly football fans didn’t have to worry about being ejected from the Philadelphia Eagles game against rival Pittsburgh. They could be arrested, tried and convicted right in Veterans Stadium.
As the Eagles beat the Steelers 23-20 on Sunday, 20 fans filed through a makeshift court in a ground-level maintenance room to face minor, mostly alcohol-related charges. Seventeen either pleaded guilty or were convicted.
The fans arrested were all men, 19 of them from out of town. Word about the court was heavily publicized in Philadelphia, where recent Eagles games have been marred by violence and crime, including the firing of a flare across the field last Monday on national television.
Police Capt. Bill Fisher was surprised by the number of arrests, considering all the publicity. But, he said, it was a good number overall, because normally about 60 fans are arrested or ejected.
Timothy Teethers spent his 34th birthday missing the game because he was facing Municipal Court Judge Seamus McCaffery on a charge of possessing an open container of alcohol.
``Then it’s not a very special day for you, is it?″ McCaffery told Teethers, who pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay a $158.50 fine within 60 days.
Fans had mixed feelings about the court.
``It’s good. People should be able to come down here and have a good time no matter what team they cheer for,″ said Skip Kramer Jr., 29, of Philadelphia.
But Michael Aloi, 19, thought it was political grandstanding to hold court at a game when so many neighborhoods have serious crime problems.
``I walk out the door and there’s drug dealers on the corners. They’re the ones that make the neighborhood unsafe,″ Aloi said.
McCaffery said the stadium court was just an extension of the city’s use of special night courts held in neighborhoods where they are needed or requested to deal with ``quality of life″ crimes.