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Archive for Saturday, December 13, 2003

Testimony about fight conflicting at hearing

December 13, 2003

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— Conflicting accounts were given at a hearing Friday about a fight involving two New York Yankees and a groundskeeper at a Fenway Park playoff game. Another hearing was scheduled for Dec. 17 to decide whether charges will be filed.

Reliever Jeff Nelson testified that Paul Williams provoked the fight with him and right fielder Karim Garcia.

Nelson said Williams bumped him after the pitcher asked him to stop cheering the Red Sox in the New York bullpen.

But Williams, a part-time groundskeeper, said he was assaulted during New York's 4-3 victory in Game 3 of the AL championship series Oct. 11.

Garcia waived his right to appear at the Roxbury District Court hearing. He jumped the outfield wall into the bullpen after the fight between Nelson and Williams began. Williams did not discuss Garcia in his testimony.

Clerk magistrate Michael Neighbors will decide if he found probable cause to charge Nelson and Garcia with assault and battery. He also will consider a complaint filed by Nelson's lawyer seeking countercharges against Williams.

The fight followed a bench-clearing melee. Williams, a middle school teacher, was treated at a hospital and released wearing a neck brace.

Boston Police Det. Matthew Tierney testified several witnesses said Nelson was the aggressor but acknowledged none saw who threw the first punch.

Nelson said Williams had been waving a rally towel for three innings when Nelson asked him to cheer elsewhere. The pitcher denied punching or kicking Williams.

"When I pushed him back, he turned and swung at me," Nelson said. "I ducked, and he missed, and he tried coming back at me."

Williams said in the ninth inning he started to wave his rally towel. He looked into the stands and gave a double wave with the towel. When he turned back, he said, "Mr. Nelson was in my face at this point. ... The bill of his hat bumped me in the head."

The fight lasted 30 to 40 seconds, Williams said. He said that after police broke up the fight he asked that a tape from a bullpen surveillance camera be saved. But the camera wasn't taping at the time.

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