Joey Porter pleads guilty to disorderly conduct in South Side incident
February 21, 2017 1:54 PM
Joey Porter arrives for his preliminary hearing today at the Municipal Court building in Downtown. At far left is his attorney Robert Del Greco Jr.
By Liz Navratil / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter pleaded guilty Tuesday to summary disorderly conduct over a confrontation with a police officer at a South Side bar, and all other charges filed against him were withdrawn.
Defense attorney Robert Del Greco said he felt the plea was appropriate and compared the disorderly conduct charge to a speeding ticket or a parking ticket, noting that it was the “lowest grade offense in the crimes code.”
Porter paid a $300 fine, plus court costs, before he left the Pittsburgh Municipal Courts Building, Downtown.
But not everyone was happy with the outcome.
Pittsburgh police Officer Paul Abel, who arrested Porter, told District Judge James Hanley in the brief hearing, “I don’t consent to it,” referring to the withdrawal of charges.
The case has been a sticking point between some Pittsburgh police officers and the Allegheny County district attorney’s office, which chose to withdraw the most serious charges after prosecutors there viewed surveillance footage of the incident.
Police released for the first time Tuesday night two surveillance videos of the incident, which together run roughly seven minutes. The videos, which do not have sound, show Mr. Porter and a bouncer having a conversation. Mr. Del Greco said the two had a “spirited and lively discussion” after the bouncer denied Mr. Porter entry to The Flats on East Carson. The reason for the denial remains murky.
Later in the video, Officer Abel walks up on the sidewalk, behind Mr. Porter, and waves his arms as he appears to say something.
Officer Abel puts a hand on Mr. Porter. Mr. Del Greco said Mr. Porter “pushed the bouncer a little bit.” Mr. Porter and the bouncer move in front of Officer Abel, and Mr. Porter is quickly surrounded by a group of men, who surge forward until Mr. Porter ends up with his back against a white car. That group includes Officer Abel. The video shows Mr. Porter’s hand on Officer Abel for a few seconds before the group breaks up and Mr. Porter ends up in the street.
Officer Abel wrote in arrest paperwork that he “believed that [Porter] was going to cause me serious injury.” Mr. Del Greco said Mr. Porter “momentarily” and “unintentionally” grabbed Officer Abel’s wrists “not realizing he was a police officer.”
“Only after seeing the video did he realize he in fact touched him within the context of that scrum,” Mr. Del Greco said.
Albert Veverka, another attorney in Mr. Del Greco’s office, said he expects the NFL will conduct a separate investigation, and that Mr. Porter will cooperate with it.
Mr. Porter was the only person charged in the incident. He originally faced charges of aggravated and simple assault, public drunkenness and other crimes. Both Pittsburgh police Chief Scott Schubert and Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the independent Citizen Police Review Board, have said they believed there was enough to support the filing of the assault charges.
Officer Abel wrote in court paperwork that Mr. Porter smelled of alcohol during the incident. Mr. Del Greco said Tuesday that his client was not drunk and that Mr. Porter had dinner with relatives and friends before he tried to enter the bar.
Liz Navratil: email@example.com and Twitter @LizNavratil.