Judge upholds murder charges

Updated: August 5, 2009, 6:28 PM ET
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- Two groups, who were thrown out of a stadium bar after arguing over a spilled beer, coincidentally parked in the same area and ended up tangling again, with fatal consequences, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Assistant Philadelphia District Attorney Richard Sax called it a "horrendous" coincidence that the groups parked in the same section of the same lot outside Citizens Bank Park.

After a preliminary hearing Wednesday, Municipal Judge Thomas Nocella upheld murder charges against three men in the July 25 melee that left 22-year-old David Sale Jr. of Lansdale dead.

Charles Bowers, 35, Jim Groves, 45, and Francis Kirchner, 28, all of Philadelphia, repeatedly beat and kicked Sale, police said. The vicious beating left Sale with a partly severed ear and severe head and internal injuries, a medical examiner told the crowded courtroom.

According to authorities, the three men came to the Philadelphia Phillies game on a bus outing, sponsored by Moe's Tavern in Philadelphia.

Sale and three friends were celebrating a bachelor's party at McFadden's, a bar attached to the stadium, when the two groups began fighting over the spilled beer. McFadden's sent Sale's group on its way but held the larger Moe's group back for a few minutes.

The prosecutor said the two groups then met up and argued on their way to the parking lot.

One witness said Kirchner kicked Sale in the head "as if he was a football."

Defense lawyers suggested through questioning, though, that it would be hard to prove who did what in the melee, especially because some witnesses had been drinking. They noted that even Sale's friends said he had refused to walk away from the argument.

"This is a fight. It's a brawl. The victim himself, tragically, was involved in the provocation of the incident," said defense lawyer Brian McMonagle, who represents Bowers.

But the prosecutor said the beating of a man already on the ground "shocked the conscience" and would be impossible for those who witnessed the fight to forget what happened.

One prosecution witness, though, gave conflicting accounts of what he saw.

Moe's patron Jason Johnson, a slightly built young man who called Groves his best friend, testified that he pulled the much-larger Bowers off of Sale, a detail he had not previously told police. Johnson also gave conflicting statements about who threw what punches.

Clearly nervous, he revealed the pressure he felt testifying against friends from the bar, where he admitted he has been carried home on other occasions. He also testified he was threatened Tuesday. He said a car pulled up behind him in his neighborhood and someone said, "You rat, you're going to get it."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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