The fan who threw the blue plastic cup at Ron Artest that led to last week's melee at the Palace of Auburn Hills was identified Monday as a 39-year-old West Bloomfield, Mich., man with a criminal past, but authorities said their investigation doesn't stop with him -- and that the person responsible for throwing a courtside chair might face the harshest charges.
John Green, a former neighbor of Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca, was identified through videotape of the fight.
Gorcyca said Green was a season ticket holder who is now barred from the Palace because of the incident. His attorney, Shawn Patrick Smith, denies he has been barred.
Green has several criminal convictions, including felony assault with intent to do great bodily harm. Green was not supposed to drink alcohol as a condition of his probation, Gorcyca said. He has three drunken-driving convictions, Gorcyca said.
Coincidentally, the prosecutor and Green used to be neighbors in Royal Oak during the early 1990s.
``When I first saw him, it struck me as odd that I recognized him,'' Gorcyca said of the video.
Green, a contractor, told reporters that it might have looked like he threw the cup, but he didn't.
``I wish the whole thing didn't happen,'' Green said. ``I'm sure the NBA players that got involved in it wish it never happened, the fans never had wished that it had happened, I know I don't. It was awful, it was ugly.''
But Green's attorney, Smith , said his client was trying to pull the Pacers' Artest off someone -- and was trying to defend the people around him. He said it was a ``cheap shot'' to bring up Green's prior convictions and he is disturbed that prosecutors are outing his client before charging him. Smith conceded that the video might speak for itself.
``They're holding back on some of the video right now, '' he said. ``If my client is the person throwing the cup, that's it. You can't argue with the video. ''
Auburn Hills police said Monday that their investigation does not stop with Green. Detectives are asking the public to help identify another man who they say was caught on tape flinging a chair through the air. The chair, police said, hit a police officer -- and several other people. Authorities said they expected to release a photograph today of the man taken from videotape of the brawl.
Gorcyca said that charges will not be filed this week -- but they are likely. Players, fans and team staff could face assault and battery charges, a 93-day misdemeanor. The person who threw the chair, however, could face felony assault charges, which could include jail time.
One of the men who allegedly was hit by a chair, John Ackerman Jr., announced Monday he plans to sue the Indiana Pacers -- and possibly the Palace.
William Paulson remembers talking to his friend Mike Ryan, looking up and seeing Indiana Pacers forward Ron Artest charging into the stands at them. Artest started pummeling Ryan, Paulson said.
``It's horribly scary to be in that situation, '' Paulson said.
Paulson said Pacers forward Stephen Jackson sucker-punched him.
``I was trying to get away and he's still holding me, '' Paulson said. ``It was scary, you're just trying to get away at all costs. ''
The two men announced lawsuits against three Pacers players: Artest, Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal on Monday, during a news conference at attorney Geoffrey Fieger's office in Southfield.
Their attorney, Todd Weglarz, said they also are considering suing the Palace for not having enough security to stop the fracas.
``This case is nothing more than a sheer, brutal assault and battery committed on fans, '' he said. ``These two fans were doing nothing but trying to enjoy a basketball game. ''
Weglarz said the office also plans to represent at least two men and a woman, who were not yet identified, in litigation related to the incident.
Asked whether Paulson, 26, of Grand Blanc, doused Artest with a beverage when Artest attacked his friend, Paulson declined comment. Video replays show Paulson, a season ticket holder, tossing a drink at the basketball player during the attack.
Weglarz said: ``The video speaks for itself. ''
O'Neal punched Ackerman just before Ackerman was struck by the chair, Weglarz said, adding that he has five witnesses to support the claim.
Ackerman, a St. Clair resident, was sitting near the Pacers' player exit aisle. He said he turned away when the fight appeared to be over. When he turned back toward the players, he was knocked out, waking up in a wheel chair and heading toward the Palace infirmary.
Both Ackerman and Paulson suffered concussions, Weglarz said.
Paulson said Green had sneaked into the lower section and was moving from seat to seat.
``The gentleman who threw the initial beer was not a part of our company and had no right to be there, '' said Paulson, a real estate agent.
``It's a shame that he came down there. He was jockeying from seat to seat. He was annoying the whole game. ''
Auburn Hills police said Monday that nine people have come forward to file assault complaints.