<
>

Magistrate to decide whether case continues

BOSTON -- 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 if charges will be filed.

Reliever Jeff Nelson testified that Paul Williams provoked the
fight with him and right fielder Karim Garcia. Neslon said Williams
bumped him and spit in his face 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
by the players during New York's 4-3 victory in Game 3 of the AL
championship series on 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 will also 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 that several
witnesses said Nelson was the aggressor but acknowledged none of
them saw who threw the first punch.

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

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

Williams said he was kicked and punched for no good reason.

"I don't think cheering for a team is provoking an assault,"
Williams said.

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."

Nelson, Williams said, then launched into a profanity-laced
tirade and told him not to cheer the Red Sox in the Yankee bullpen.

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.