Cops Go To The Videotape Of Brawl

Indiana Pacers forward Ron Artest gets into the stands to fight with some fans during a a brawl with the Detroit Pistons with just 45.9 seconds left in the game Friday, Nov. 19, 2004, in Auburn Hills, Mich. The game was called by the officials. AP

Investigators interviewed nine people injured in the brawl at the end of the Pistons-Pacers game, but no charges were imminent in the case, the county prosecutor said.

Police were also reviewing videotapes and interviewing witnesses from Friday night's melee, when Indiana forward Ron Artest charged into the stands after a fan threw a cup at him.

If charges are filed, they probably would be for assault and battery, a misdemeanor that could bring a three-month jail sentence, David Gorcyca, the Oakland County prosecutor, said Monday. The only possible felony charge could be against the person who hurled a chair into the crowd.

Police Chief Doreen Olko said none of the people involved was seriously injured.

Asked if Artest could claim self-defense, Gorcyca said: "Even if someone did throw water, you don't have a license or a green light to punch them."

John Green of West Bloomfield Township was the fan who threw the cup at Artest, Gorcyca said. The prosecutor identified Green — a former next-door neighbor — by repeatedly watching footage of the brawl. He said footage showed that once Artest was in the stands, Green grabbed him from behind and sucker-punched him.

Green, however, told reporters he didn't throw the cup.

"I wish the whole thing didn't happen," he said. "I'm sure the NBA players that got involved in it wish it never happened, the fans never wished that it had happened. I know I don't. It was awful, it was ugly."

Pistons chief executive Tom Wilson said Green is a season-ticket holder and will be banned from The Palace.

Other fans are planning to file lawsuits in the wake of the melee. One such fan, John Ackerman, recounted what he could of happened to him during the commotion, which allegedly included his being struck by a chair, on the CBS News Early Show.

"The fight was over in the bench to my left. And I never thought I would be any part of that. And as the players began to leave the arena, I was told by people that saw me that I was assaulted by Mr. (Jermaine) O'Neal. … I don't remember being assaulted nor do I remember being hit by the flying chair. … The only thing I remember is I woke up in a wheelchair going to first aid."

The Pacers lost over 62 percent of their scoring when Artest was suspended for the season, Stephen Jackson for 30 games and O'Neal for 25 for Friday night's fracas.

Detroit's Ben Wallace — whose shove of Artest after a foul led to the five-minute fracas — drew a six-game ban, while Pacers guard Anthony Johnson got five games.

Four players — Indiana's Reggie Miller, and Detroit's Chauncey Billups, Elden Campbell and Derrick Coleman — were suspended one game apiece for leaving the bench during the initial fight.

The Pacers' leadership expressed unequivocal support for Artest, Jackson and O'Neal on Monday and said the losses haven't changed their goals for a season that began with championship aspirations.

"We don't care who puts on a uniform," coach Rick Carlisle said. "There's a standard here. When you put on an Indiana Pacers uniform, you're expected to perform at a certain way at a certain level. That's what we expect from all these guys who haven't necessarily been star players."

Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh called the melee a low point for pro sports and the franchise.

"We apologize for our part in it," Walsh said.

With it's image at risk, the NBA has pledged to reinforce a code of conduct for its players and fans and to re-examine security at its arenas, reports CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason.

Artest bolted into the stands after being hit by the cup, touching off the brawl in which players exchanged punches with fans, who also doused the Pacers with drinks, popcorn, the chair and other debris.

Jackson joined Artest in the stands, swinging wildly, while O'Neal remained on the floor and punched a fan who came onto the court.

O'Neal and Artest have also apologized for their roles in the brawl, but Anthony Johnson said his five-game suspension was "excessive."

"I never went into the stands; I never left the court area," Johnson said. "People certainly can see what the conditions on the floor were like. The chaos speaks for itself."

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