Players' trials begin next week

Updated: October 22, 2004, 6:30 PM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- Prosecutors on Friday dropped charges against a Fenway Park groundskeeper who got into a bullpen brawl with two former New York Yankees during last year's playoffs.

The players are scheduled to go to trial next week.

Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley filed court documents ending the prosecution of Paul Williams after a review found there wasn't enough evidence to back up a charge. Prosecutors said they viewed videotape of the fight and interviewed witnesses.

Williams, 25, of Derry, N.H., had been charged in a cross-complaint initiated by former Yankees pitcher Jeff Nelson. Nelson alleged that Williams bumped him and spit on him in a brawl in the Yankees' bullpen during last year's American League Championship Series.

The fight broke out after Williams cheered for the Red Sox while in the bullpen during a rowdy Game 3. Earlier in the game, the benches cleared after former Yankees outfielder Karim Garcia was hit by a pitch from Boston's Pedro Martinez.

Nelson has said Williams started the bullpen fight after Nelson calmly asked Williams to stop cheering, but prosecutors allege Nelson attacked Williams.

After Nelson filed for the complaint, a Roxbury District Court clerk found probable cause to charge Nelson.

Nelson and Garcia are scheduled to stand trial on assault and battery charges on Tuesday -- three days after the start of this year's World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Red Sox, who advanced by defeating the Yankees in seven games.

Nelson now plays for the Texas Rangers and Garcia played for the Baltimore Orioles, who waived him in August. Williams is a part-time groundskeeper who teaches special education at a New Hampshire middle school.

In February, Williams sued the players for more than $33,000 for medical bills, lost wages and his sense of smell. He said the fight left him with a deviated septum, broken teeth, a neck injury and cleat marks on his body.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press