Just two have day in (Eagles) court; judges call program big success
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Deep in the bowels of Veterans Stadium, two city judges were ready Sunday to face an onslaught.
Their staffs were prepared to handle the paperwork. Police were ready to scour the Eagles-Giants game for all the fans who felt it necessary to fight, jump on the field or otherwise break the law.
It didn’t quite work out that way. Instead, the judges told some good war stories of their days as young attorneys, the staff gave reporters recipes for 7Up Cake (2/3 cup of 7Up and a lot of butter) and the cops watched the game on a small TV set and waited.
Just the kind of day everyone had been hoping for on the third and final municipal court held in the stadium this season.
Just two men, both from suburban Philadelphia, were brought before Common Pleas Court Judge Rayford Means and Municipal Court Judge James DeLeon to face charges.
The arrests were the lowest of the three sessions that began after a chaotic Monday night game against the San Francisco 49ers when fans brawled. One person was charged with firing a flare into the crowd and another reported a broken ankle after being attacked _ both were taken to conventional city court.
Twenty fans were arrested during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Nov. 23, and five were charged at last week’s game against Cincinnati.
``You can see the message went out,″ Means said after Sunday’s 31-21 Eagles loss. ``I think that you look at the goal of improving the quality of life for the people who attend these games with the sole intention of having a nice afternoon ... and this (court) goes a long way to meeting that goal.″
Fans who say: ``I bought my ticket, I can do whatever I want,″ are getting the point that Philadelphia won’t tolerate them, Means said.
``Having the court here gets more teeth into what security and police can do,″ he said. ``If someone pours beer on someone or is cussing, they can feel more comfortable in reporting it and knowing there’s a judge here who is going to take care of it.″
The judges got their first case of the day at halftime, when Joseph Salvucci of Media, Pa., was brought in on a charge of defiant trespassing. Salvucci, 34, had been ejected by security guards, then he paid $15 to a scalper outside the stadium for another ticket and went back inside.
But he sat in his old seat and the same guard spotted him, so it was a trip to the basement.
``To be honest, I just wanted to see the game,″ he told the judges. ``I certainly did not want to cause any problems.″
Salvucci was fined $198.50, given until Monday to pay up, and told to leave the stadium _ again.
``I’m not coming back,″ he pledged.
Salvucci, his face covered with a leather Eagles jacket to avoid cameras, refused to comment as he left the courtroom.
Midway through the third quarter, Michael S. Prinz, of Bensalem, Pa., pleaded innocent to charges of public urination and disorderly conduct and asked for an attorney and a trial.
Defense attorney Kathleen Martin, a volunteer like the judges and staff, spoke briefly with her new client then argued his case. Two security guards testified separately they had found Prinz, 38, in a storeroom next to a lavatory and that there was a puddle of urine on the ground. He became angry when confronted and shoved one of them, they said.
Prinz said he hadn’t relieved himself in the room _ he had started to go in but backed out because it was dark and reeked of urine. That’s when he was grabbed by the guards.
``I put up a fuss because I felt like I didn’t do anything wrong,″ he testified.
Martin successfully argued that there was reasonable doubt because the guards hadn’t actually seen Prinz urinate and he was acquitted of the charge. He was found guilty of disorderly conduct, however, and fined $300 plus the $98.50 in court costs. He also had no comment.
Santa Claus, who once was greeted by a hail of snowballs at Veterans Stadium, got a break on Sunday. The unidentified man dressed as Saint Nick was released without being charged after being detained by security guards who told him to get down off a dugout. He did _ right onto the field, another case of defiant trespassing.
Police decided he hadn’t been disruptive or malicious and possibly had misunderstood the guards.
``He went up the chimney,″ DeLeon joked.