Falling Bills fan’s trial ends in guilty verdict
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — A Buffalo Bills fan who fell from the upper deck of Ralph Wilson Stadium and injured another spectator last year was found guilty of assault and reckless endangerment Tuesday after a six-member jury deliberated for about 20 minutes.
The Orchard Park Town Court jury found Robert Hopkins of Buffalo guilty of both counts against him — third-degree assault and second-degree reckless endangerment — following a three-day trial. He could face up to a year in jail when he’s sentenced on Sept. 11.
Stadium video surveillance revealed that Hopkins, 29, slid partway down a railing and climbed back up to his seat several times before falling backward on his fifth slide. He tumbled 20 to 25 feet and landed on Mark Bratcher, injuring the man’s head, neck and back.
Hopkins was not seriously hurt. But after the incident during the Nov. 17 Bills-New York Jets game, he lost his job in advertising and public relations and was banned from the stadium.
Defense lawyer Patrick Brown argued that the incident hadn’t been proven to be reckless because there was no evidence that Hopkins “perceived and ignored risk.”
Assistant District Attorney G. Michael Drmacich responded that it was obvious Hopkins knew the risk and disregarded it.
Dr. Loubert Steven Suddaby, Bratcher’s neurosurgeon, testified that Bratcher, 29, had bulging discs in two places in his cervical spine and a herniated disc in his middle spine. He said if the impact had been only two inches forward, Bratcher could have been killed or left a quadriplegic.