Editor's note: The New York City Council recently passed a law that would punish fans with up to a year in jail and a $25,000 fine for spitting or throwing items at players. "Our families should not be intimidated by drunken idiots in any stadium," councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Queens) told the New York Daily News. How crazy could it get now in New York City courts, Jim Caple wonders
New York City public defender Steven Collins opened his bulging briefcase and pulled out a set of files as thick as the Baseball Encyclopedia. He looked at the long line of the accused, and groaned. His office was never going to catch up on the backlog of cases brought on by the city's new laws regarding fan behavior. Good lord, they were still working on the baseball cases. What would it be like when the hockey season started?
Judge Newt Rochelle strode into the courtroom and took his seat. He spoke without even looking up from his files. "Let's get this over with as quickly as possible, shall we? I don't think I need to remind you gentlemen that the Indiana Pacers and Ron Artest will be visiting our fair city soon."
Assistant district attorney Tyrone Fields began. "Your honor, the city charges Kenny O'Donnell of Somerville, Mass., with a Class B misdemeanor for the wanton public display of a cap affixed with the Boston Red Sox logo in the borough of the Bronx."
The judge glanced at Collins. "How does your client plead?"
"Guilty, your honor." It was best not to waste time on an open-and-shut case.
The judge banged his gavel. "That will be a $100 fine. Next case."
"Your honor," Fields said, "the city charges Kevin O'Shea of Bristol, Conn., with a hate crime for wearing a T-shirt that bears a New York player's name within 5 inches of the word 'sucks.'"
The judge looked up at the prosecutor. "A hate crime?"
"Yes, your honor. The accused was implying a sexual lifestyle."
The judge shook his head in disgust. "Mr. Collins, how does your client plead?"
"Guilty, your honor." God, this was going to be a long day.
The gavel came down again. "Six months in jail and a $5,000 fine. Next case."
"Your honor, the city charges Peter Romero of Queens with a felony for hitting first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz in the head with a thrown object."
"Your honor," Collins protested, "there was no intent to commit a crime here. My defendant is a hot dog vendor who accidentally overthrew a customer and hit Mientkiewicz in the on-deck circle."
The judge was not in the mood to listen. "Mr. Collins, may I remind you that your defendant hit Mr. Mientkiewicz with a Shea Stadium hot dog? You're lucky he's not being charged with possession of a deadly weapon. Quit wasting this court's time. We have a full docket. How do you plead?"
Damn, Collins thought, Judge Rochelle was in a miserable mood. "Guilty."
"One year in jail and a $10,000 fine. Next case."
"Your honor, the city charges Jason Gotch of Queens with a felony for spitting on a player at a Mets-Yankees game. And we're prosecuting under the anti-terror provisions of the Patriot Act."