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Former Yankees Plead Innocent to Assault

January 7, 2004

BOSTON (AP) _ Former Yankees Jeff Nelson and Karim Garcia and a Fenway Park groundskeeper pleaded innocent Wednesday to charges they brawled in New York’s bullpen during the AL championship series.

Neither player attended the five-minute arraignment hearing at Roxbury District Court. The groundskeeper, Paul Williams, was in court but had no comment afterward.

The judge set a Feb. 5 pretrial hearing for the players and a Feb. 24 pretrial hearing for Williams. All three have been charged with assault and battery.

Attorneys for the two players _ both now free agents _ had no comment Wednesday on whether the case could be resolved by Feb. 5. The players won’t be required to attend the Feb. 5 hearing unless the case is nearing resolution.

Last month, a clerk magistrate ruled there was probable cause to go forward with charges against the players and enough evidence to go forward with a cross-complaint brought by Nelson against Williams, a 24-year-old part-time groundskeeper and middle school teacher from Derry, N.H.

The fight was during Game 3 of the ALCS on Oct. 11, just innings after a bench-clearing melee that started when Garcia was hit by a pitch from Pedro Martinez.

Williams said he was attacked by Nelson after the Yankees’ reliever bumped him, cursed and told him to leave the bullpen if he wanted to cheer for Boston.

Nelson has said Williams provoked the fight.

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