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Separate Trials For Ball Brawlers

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Five Indiana Pacers players charged in one of the worst brawls in U.S. sports history will be tried separately.

A judge Friday granted the National Basketball Association players' request for separate trials on misdemeanor assault and battery charges so they would not be called as complaining witnesses at the same trial in which they are defendants.

Lawyers for the five — Ron Artest, Jermaine O'Neal, Stephen Jackson, Anthony Johnson and David Harrison — contended there was a risk the players would be called to testify in a way that could be self-incriminating.

Two other defendants, spectators William Paulson and John Ackerman, were granted requests that they be tried together, but separately from the other defendants in the case stemming from the Nov. 19 brawl during the NBA game between the Pacers and the Detroit Pistons.

Judge Lisa Asadoorian said the two remaining defendants — David Wallace, brother of Pistons center Ben Wallace, and John Green, the fan who prosecutors say sparked the brawl by lobbing a drink that struck Artest — would be tried together. Wallace and Green did not ask for separate trials.

No players or fans facing charges were at Friday's hearing.

The brawl started after Ben Wallace shoved Artest following a hard foul. After they were separated, Artest was doused with the drink, rushed into the stands and began beating a man he thought had thrown it at him. Some teammates joined him in the stands and also fought with fans on the court.

A fan charged with throwing a chair pleaded no contest last month and is expected to be sentenced next month. Three other fans were sentenced to probation on charges of walking on a court or throwing objects.

By Sarah Karush