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Read the news of the day in less than 10 minutes — not that we’re counting.
LeSean McCoy is an expert at slipping tackles on the field, but this offseason the Philadelphia Eagle-turned-Buffalo Bill’s best move is escaping criminal charges in connection with a nightclub brawl — because the D.A. couldn’t figure out how the fight started.
After weeks of work since the February incident and interviews with 27 witnesses, District Attorney Seth Williams and his staff said the only information they could verify about the start of the fight came from two off-duty police officers — who, Williams said at a press conference Monday, gave conflicting statements and misidentified people.
“All I can say is we attempted to be fair and to be neutral,” Williams said, “not to be driven by our passions to either defend or prosecute anyone.”
Other details about the rest of the night are clear. McCoy and his group of friends, which also included former Pitt football player Tamarcus Porter, crossed paths with off-duty cops, identified in the police report as Darnell Jessie, Roland Butler and Daniel Ayers, at the Replay Lounge in Old City. There, Williams said, McCoy’s group ordered a bottle of tequila, Hennessy and champagne. The officers’ group order three $350 bottles of champagne and got another for free as part of a deal at the club.
Williams said a bottle of champagne was given by a person from one group to a woman in close proximity with the other group. BigTrial.Net reported it was the police officers’ group that gave away the bottle but Williams did not specify when asked. The champagne bottle led to confusion and then a fight ensued.
This is where the district attorney’s office says it got murky. Williams said a person from McCoy’s group ended up on the floor with an off-duty police officer on top of him. The off-duty police officer had put his hands around the man who was with McCoy, Williams said.
“We’re not sure how those individuals ended up on the ground,” he said.
Williams said McCoy at this point did what can be seen in the video released by TMZ: He saw his friend on the ground, and went to the ground to protect him.
“We had to prove he was unreasonable in coming to the defense of another,” Williams said. “You’re allowed to use appropriate force to defend that person.”
McCoy was the only person from his group to talk with investigators, said Mike Barry, assistant district attorney, but did not provide any details about how the fight started. Barry said McCoy made investigators “aware of more cooperative eyewitnesses.”
After the fight, uniformed police outside the Recess Lounge asked members from both parties if they wanted to press charges or receive medical attention. Everyone said no.
“If the people, when they came out, said, ‘Yes, we want someone arrested right now,’” Williams said, “it might’ve been a different result.”
According to the police report, Butler later went to a hospital in Delaware County and Jessie went to Hahnemann. Williams said there was no evidence anyone from either group had a weapon.
During Williams’ press conference, Fraternal Order of Police president John McNesby released a statement complaining Philadelphia was the only place where assaults captured on video aren’t prosecuted. Cell phone video was taken of the incident, but surveillance video from inside the Recess Lounge wasn’t available.
“Serious and permanent injuries were inflicted on these officers as a result of a brutal assault captured on film,” McNesby said in the statement, “but a season-ticket hunting District Attorney refuses to do his sworn job and prosecute the attackers.”
Williams, who said he had spoken with McNesby and police commissioner Richard Ross, said, “Mr. McNesby has a job to do. I have a job to do. The men and women working on this case investigated thoroughly.”
Williams denied that McCoy was given any preferential treatment. He noted people could argue many cases like this would never have even been investigated were it not for having a famous participant.