Man convicted of assault for punching Artest in brawl

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. -- The man accused of sparking the brawl between players and fans at The Palace of Auburn Hills in 2004 was convicted of assault Monday for punching Ron Artest.

John Green was acquitted, however, of throwing a cup at Artest -- who was playing for the Indiana Pacers at the time -- before the forward charged into the stands and began fighting with Detroit Pistons fans.

Green was the last person with a case pending after the brawl, one of the worst in U.S. sports history.

He faces up to 93 days in jail and a $500 fine. Sentencing was scheduled for May 1.

The 41-year-old contractor chewed gum and showed no emotion as the verdicts were read. Green and his attorney, Shawn Patrick Smith, said afterward that they would appeal on grounds that Artest was not present for the trial.

"[That] he didn't show up is a violation of my Sixth Amendment constitutional right to have him here," Green said of Artest, traded by Indiana to the Sacramento Kings on Jan. 25.

"The judge wouldn't force [prosecutors] to bring him here," said Smith, who did not call any witnesses.

Assistant Prosecutor John Pietrofesa said Artest's testimony wasn't needed.

"Mr. Artest's presence was going to do nothing but add a travel bill for Oakland County," he said.

The jury deliberated about 2½ hours. The three men and three women declined to speak with reporters afterward.

The fighting began after Detroit's Ben Wallace shoved Artest following a hard foul. They were separated, and Artest lay back on the scorer's table where he was hit with a beverage. He rushed into the stands and began beating a man he apparently thought had thrown the drink. Some of his teammates joined him in the stands and clashed with fans on the court.

Referees called the game with 45.9 seconds left and the Pacers leading 97-82.

Artest and Pacers teammates Anthony Johnson, David Harrison, Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson were among those charged. Each one pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault and battery and was sentenced to probation and community service.

The NBA suspended Artest for the remainder of the season and handed down shorter suspensions to all the others except Harrison.

Assistant Prosecutor Paul Walton said Green intentionally threw the cup and that it was all caught on videotape. But Smith said his client never meant to hit Artest with the cup. And he said Green was defending another man after Artest went into the stands.