Ballpark beating suspects held for trial

August 5, 2009 3:48:20 PM PDT
Three men accused in the beating death of another man near Citizen's Bank Park will be held over for trial. That ruling came after a prelminary hearing Wednesday.

A judge decided that the state has enough evidence to proceed with charges against three men in the July 25 melee that left 22-year-old David Sale Jr. of Lansdale dead.

Police say Charles Bowers, 35, Jim Grove, 45, and Francis Kirchner, 28, all of Philadelphia, repeatedly beat and kicked Sale. 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.

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.

Coincidentally, the groups parked in the same area and ended up tangling again.

Assistant Philadelphia District Attorney Richard Sax called it a "horrendous" coincidence.

Defense lawyers suggested, though, through questioning that it would be hard to prove who did what in the melee, especially because some people had been drinking.

But Sax 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. Sax planned to call witnesses from both group, as well as independent witnesses.

"Because it was such a dynamic event, I need to paint the whole picture," Sax said.

But at least one prosecution witness gave an account more favorable to the defense.

Moe's patron Jason Johnson, a slightly built young man who called Grove 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."

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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