Kobayashi freed, pleads not guilty

Updated: July 5, 2010, 2:12 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Japanese eating champion Takeru Kobayashi has been freed after a night in a New York jail over a hot dog scuffle.

Kobayashi wore a black T-shirt bearing the message "Free Kobi" as he pleaded not guilty in Brooklyn on Monday to charges of obstruction of governmental administration, resisting arrest, trespassing and disorderly conduct.

He had jumped onstage after Sunday's annual Fourth of July hot dog eating contest at Coney Island that he sat out because of a contract dispute.

Kobayashi said Monday that he'd gone there as a spectator, but fans began chanting for him. He says he went onstage "in the heat of it," hoping officials would let him participate.

"I went as a spectator to cheer on my buddies that I used to eat with," Kobayashi told reporters after his release. "Everyone in the crowd kept chanting 'let him eat, let him eat.' So I jumped onto the stage to prove that I am still the champ, but I was arrested."

His attorney, Mario D. Romano, said he hoped the charges would be dropped, according to the New York Post.

"He was protesting the restrictions of his contract," Romano said, according to the report. "He jumped on the stage in response to people telling him to eat. All he wanted to do was eat quickly and publicly."

Joey "Jaws" Chestnut of San Jose, Calif., won the contest. He downed 54 hot dogs in 10 minutes.

It was Chestnut's fourth straight hot dog eating championship, but the first in which he didn't have to out-gobble Kobayashi for the contest's mustard yellow title belt.

Contest organizer Richard Shea said he was "disappointed" by the incident, according to the New York Daily News.

"I feel badly for everyone who worked so hard that the story today is all about this disruption," Shea said, according to the report.

Kobayashi told reporters he had a sandwich and a glass of milk while being held.

"I am very hungry," he said. "I wish there were hot dogs in jail."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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