A judge threw out felony attempted-murder and aggravated-assault charges against a Fat Tuesday bar bouncer after closely watching a video yesterday showing customer David LaSalle fall headfirst over a stairway railing.
LaSalle had been ejected from the South Street bar about 1:30 a.m. May 30, and bouncer Lyle Henry kept LaSalle from reentering the bar to retrieve his sweatshirt, LaSalle's friend George Richards testified yesterday.
The security camera video, played in court yesterday by Assistant District Attorney Beth Grossman, shows Henry backing LaSalle out of the bar and directing him toward the stairs leading to the street.
LaSalle, 22, of Warminster, seemed to be pushed or trip backward down a few steps. He then tried to slip past Henry to go up the steps, and Henry reached out with his right hand and pushed him against the stairway railing.
LaSalle fell backward, headfirst, over the railing as Henry, 32, of Willingboro, reached out to try to grab the plummeting man.
LaSalle was critically injured by what police said was a 13-foot drop and is still recuperating from his injuries.
"He landed straight down on his head," Richards testified. "When I ran down there, he was unresponsive - out cold. He was bleeding; there was blood coming out of his mouth, gurgling."
Grossman told Municipal Court Judge Linda F. Anderson that LaSalle spent three weeks in a coma and suffered extensive facial and brain injuries. LaSalle is currently undergoing cognitive and physical therapy, Grossman said.
Assistant Defender Wendy Goldstein told the judge that her client never intended to harm LaSalle.
"This was clearly a tragic accident," Goldstein said. "[Henry's] first instinct is to grab him back over the stairs, and he was the first one to the bottom of the stairs, rendering aid."
Grossman argued that Henry "was grossly reckless" and that "they were balanced on a precarious setup" on the stairs. She also said that Henry pushed LaSalle three times, and that in his final shove he used enough force to push the man over the railing with just one hand.
Anderson dismissed the felony charges and ordered that Henry instead stand trial Sept. 16 on misdemeanor charges of simple assault and reckless endangerment.
Grossman said her office would consider rearresting Henry on the felony charges - essentially appealing Anderson's decision to a Common Pleas Court judge.
Henry is currently free on $15,000 bail.