A security guard stands next to Michael A. Roberts, as he points to Dennis Pauley, seated at top left, during the final minutes of the Detroit Pistons game against the Philadelphia 76ers in game two of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at The Palace in
Photo credit: AP Photo/Paul Sancya
The night started innocently enough with free tickets in the upper bowl of the Palace to watch the Pistons take on the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
After a flung quarter, a visit to the Auburn Hills Police Department and a long walk down Telegraph, Dennis Pauley, a 31-year-old Taylor man, has everyone asking:
What was he thinking?
"It's amazing that somebody, after going through what we went through in November, could come in here and throw anything," said Tom Wilson, president and chief executive officer of Palace Sports and Entertainment.
"I'm stunned that somebody would do something like this."
Fans sitting behind the team benches at the Palace on Tuesday night pointed Pauley out as the culprit behind a flying quarter that hit 76ers guard Allen Iverson in the back during a timeout late in the fourth quarter, police said.
After being arrested and released from the Auburn Hills Police Department, Pauley, whose driver's license had been suspended for substance-abuse convictions and whose friends abandoned him after the game, said it took him about six hours to walk from the Auburn Hills Police Department to 12 Mile and Telegraph in Southfield, where he caught a bus about 6 a.m.
Pauley is charged with being in a seat he didn't have a ticket for and throwing an object onto the playing surface, both violations of local ordinances. The misdemeanors carry a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine if he is convicted.
Pauley's friend, 26-year-old Michael Roberts of Lincoln Park, also is charged with being in a seat he didn't have permission to be in.
Neither Pauley nor Roberts has been arraigned yet, but Auburn Hills Police Lt. James Manning said Wednesday warrants are signed and the men would have a chance to turn themselves in.
The quarter incident comes in the wake of the ugly Nov. 19 brawl between Indiana Pacers players and fans at the Palace after a fan threw a cup at Pacer Ron Artest, creating a national spectacle replayed ad nauseam on television for weeks.
Trials for the five Pacers players and four fans charged with misdemeanor assault and battery will begin this summer. Bryant Jackson of Mundy Township, who police said threw a metal chair during the brawl, is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday in Oakland County Circuit Court.
Last month, a bomb threat delayed the start of a Pistons-Pacers game for about 90 minutes.
On Wednesday, Wilson credited good security and alert fans, who immediately pointed Pauley out as the quarter-thrower, with preventing a repeat of the brawl.
"We're tired of being painted as bad fans," said Wilson, who was watching the game from behind the team benches. "We're not."
Player professionalism also played a part.
"Allen handled it the way Ron Artest should have handled it," Wilson said.
Pauley spoke to members of the news media in front of his father's home in Taylor on Wednesday and apologized to Iverson, the 76ers, the Pistons, the city of Auburn Hills, the fans -- and for embarrassing his family and friends.
"It was stupid at the time," he said.
Roberts said he and Pauley decided to move to better seats late in the game. They picked out two empty seats next to some friends.
"It's not like I went down there with any malicious intent. I just wanted to get closer to the action," Roberts said. He said his friend even joked about tossing the coin before he did it.
"I said, 'Dude, don't throw that quarter. That's stupid,'" said Roberts, who'd been taunting 76er Chris Webber in typical fan fashion when the idea surfaced. Then he turned his attention to his beer.
When Roberts looked up, he said he saw the quarter sail through the air and strike Iverson.
Roberts played dumb, until a security guard tapped his shoulder.
On Wednesday, he didn't come home until the afternoon and at first unplugged his phone. When he finally plugged it back in, he learned about the potential consequence of his seat swap.
"It's a waste of taxpayers' dollars to prosecute you for sitting in the wrong seat," he said. And he wasn't too pleased with Pauley.
"I wasn't mad earlier," Roberts said, "but now that I've sat down and realized the gravity of the situation, yeah, I'm a little upset."
Pauley was about 15 feet from the players when he said he threw the quarter.
"I would be amazed that anyone could get down there," said Gayle Weast, a 14-year Palace season ticket-holder from Plymouth, who was at Tuesday night's game and didn't even realize the incident had taken place until she saw it on television on Wednesday.
Just getting in and out of her section, which is near where visiting players enter and exit the court, has been extremely tight since the November brawl.
"It just ruins it for those of us that want to go and enjoy the game," Weast said.
The November brawl has left a shadow over the Palace for visiting players, said 76ers guard Andre Iguodala.
"It's things like that you worry about because they were up big and they were going to win the game; there was only about a minute left and it was pretty much over," he said. "Obviously, that's in your mind when you play in a place like that, is your safety."
Extra precautions already are taken at the Palace during the playoffs, when tensions can run higher than in the regular season, Wilson said.
"Our players get pelted all the time," he said. "They'll tell you it's the same at any arena. It's only a big deal here because of what happened in November."