Suspects in Phila. wedding brawl appear in court
PHILADELPHIA - December 18, 2012 (WPVI) -- Two suspects in a violent brawl at a Philadelphia wedding, which was caught on video, appeared in court on Tuesday.
Brian Lanza, 29, and Matthew Sofka, 26, both of Westfield, New Jersey were charged in connection with the brawl at the Sheraton Society Hill on October 7th.
The uncle of one of the brides died after suffering a heart attack while fleeing the chaos, but they are not facing any charges in connection with that death.
During a preliminary hearing on Tuesday, both defendants had their aggravated assault charges dropped from Felony 1 counts to Felony 2 counts. The also face charges including reckless endangerment and simple assault.
Several officers testified in court. One officer said she saw Sofka punching, then later kicking, a police sergeant. Sofka's attorney disputes that account, saying his client was merely trying to help his girlfriend, who had been knocked over.
"At some point the police come in and - whether intentionally or inadvertently - his girlfriend is knocked to ground, he tries to help her, and it's during the course of the melee that the charges arise," said Sofka's attorney Fortunato Perri.
Another officer testified he saw Lanza kicking the same sergeant and a second officer.
That sergeant said he suffered a concussion and brain trauma and can only remember pieces of what happened. He has not returned to duty since that night.
The attorneys for both defendants questioned the credibility of the police officer's accounts.
"Clearly innocent, the testimony was clearly contradictory," said Lanza's attorney, Wolodymyr Tyshchenko, who went on to say that the accounts from the officers didn't match up.
Tyshchenko went on to say Lanza is not seen in the video.
The next court date was scheduled for January.
fight, philadelphia, philadelphia police, local/state
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