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S. Boston stabbing suspect pleads not guilty

Bernard Piscopo (center) at yesterday's arraignment in South Boston District Court with his attorney, Robert George (right). Bernard Piscopo (center) at yesterday's arraignment in South Boston District Court with his attorney, Robert George (right). (GEORGE RIZER/GLOBE STAFF)

Family and friends of a Revere man and the Dorchester man accused of fatally stabbing him during a bar brawl Sunday packed a South Boston courtroom yesterday, sitting silently in separate sections.

Police escorted the roughly 50 supporters -- split equally between the two sides -- through different entrances for the arraignment of Bernard Piscopo, 38, who is charged with stabbing 26-year-old Adam Rich to death early Sunday morning at The 6 House bar in South Boston.

As a prosecutor described how Rich died after being stabbed eight times in the stomach, legs, back, hand, and chest, a woman broke the silence, dropping her head to her knees and sobbing loudly.

Piscopo said little during the proceeding , only responding at the end: "Thank you, your honor."

Piscopo's attorney, Robert George, entered a not-guilty plea on his client's behalf, saying that Piscopo has multiple sclerosis and is not capable of committing such a crime. Forensic evidence and cameras in the bar will prove that he was not involved, George said.

"This man had nothing to do with the death of Mr. Rich," George told the judge. "This is a person who could not commit the crime as it's alleged."

Officers responded to a call at 1:44 a.m. and found Rich lying on the ground bleeding, according to a police report, and he was taken to Boston Medical Center. His friend, 24-year-old Thomas Browne of Malden, was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he received 40 stitches for three shoulder and stomach knife wounds, and was released that night. No one has been charged in his stabbing.

"We're just glad that they got him so quickly and that he's held without bail. We think that's warranted," said John Rich, the victim's uncle.

The 6 House bar is under investigation by the city and state.

Dan Pokaski, chairman of Boston's licensing board, said the board took "decisive action" yesterday concerning The 6 House, but would not elaborate because the owner had not been contacted. He said the owner must attend a July 10 hearing to explain the behavior of his patrons and answer questions about some stock transfers.

The state's Department of Industrial Accidents is also investigating complaints that the bar does not provide its employees with worker's compensation, according to state law.

Robert Mahar, The 6 House owner, did not return a call seeking comment.

The West Broadway bar, formerly Triple O's, is known as a former hangout of fugitive mobster James "Whitey" Bulger.

Assistant District Attorney Holly Broadbent said two altercations preceded the stabbing. Witnesses said that after the second one, Piscopo grabbed a knife from his pants and stabbed Rich and also another man three times, Broadbent told the judge.

Piscopo, who surrendered to police Tuesday evening, is being held without bail, pending a probable cause hearing July 18.

George said his client is frustrated, but "prepared to do what he needs to do to get out of this mess." He said Piscopo doesn't drink because he takes daily shots to manage his multiple sclerosis. George describes him as a family man, with a fiancé and two children, who served nearly a decade in the Army and has no criminal history.