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Charges expected against Yankees

Police press ahead on melee at Fenway

Boston police are seeking misdemeanor assault and battery charges against two New York Yankees players for allegedly attacking a Red Sox grounds crew worker during Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.

Detectives will seek a complaint this morning in Roxbury District Court charging pitcher Jeff Nelson and outfielder Karim Garcia, who allegedly beat Paul Williams in the Yankees' bullpen at Fenway Park, according to police spokeswoman Mariellen Burns. The players will be summoned for a hearing next month, at which time a clerk magistrate will hear evidence and decide whether to issue charges.

Nelson and Garcia have the option of appearing at the hearing and presenting evidence to counter statements by Williams and police officers, two of whom said they witnessed the alleged attack on Oct. 11. Should the clerk issue charges, the players would be arraigned in Roxbury District Court, possibly that day.

Williams, a special education teacher in New Hampshire, could not be reached for comment. Garcia and Nelson, interviewed in the visitors' clubhouse in Miami where the Yankees are playing the Florida Marlins in the World Series, said they were unaware of the development in the case.

"I'm answering no questions about that," Nelson said.

Garcia said, "I've heard nothing from Boston. I'm letting my lawyers handle that."

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said he hoped the criminal proceedings would not affect his team, which is tied 1-1 with the Marlins in the World Series. "I would think most of these guys had to deal with a lot of issues off the field, family issues and so forth, and I suspect this would be no different," he said.

David Procopio, a spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney's office, which has been working with police about the case, said detectives "took a lot of time to do this, and rightly so. They wanted to speak with everyone who had knowledge of the case."

Procopio said the misdemeanor charges were sought because they were what the police thought they could "take into court and meet their burden of proof."

Police can arrest someone on the spot if they witness an action, Procopio said, but it's common "in a case where you have many witnesses to get different accounts of what happened and to put those accounts before a court."

The fact that the alleged attackers play for the New York Yankees had no bearing on the investigation, Procopio said.

"We would be pursuing the same course of action were the principals affiliated with the Texas Rangers, the Minnesota Twins, or the Toledo Mudhens," said Procopio. He said that in seeking charges, police "are confident that the next step is to go ahead and schedule a hearing."

Cashman said Boston police were "fulfilling their obligation and they're being guided by their investigation."

The maximum penalty for a conviction is 2 1/2 years in the House of Correction or $500 or both, Procopio said. However, mitigating circumstances, including whether the defendant had a criminal history, would be taken into account.

The alleged attack on Williams came during a heated Game 3 and quickly became the talk of the baseball world. The fight followed a bench clearing melee in which 72-year-old Yankees coach Don Zimmer rushed Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez, who shoved him to the ground.

Williams had been working in the Yankees bullpen but was cheering for the Red Sox. The officers who were working security in the bullpen said they heard words to the effect of, "If you're gonna cheer, go on the other side."

A police officer then saw Nelson approach Williams and begin "pushing and grabbing Williams in the chest area," the report said.

Both fell to the ground, and officers said they saw Nelson "punching and flaring his legs." Other bullpen members were seen jumping on Williams, to either strike Williams or break up the altercation.

The officers who witnessed the incident also said they saw Garcia hop the right-field fence and throw punches at Williams. Garcia's hand was cut and he missed Game 4, but returned for Game 5. Williams was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he was treated for head, mouth, and body wounds, as well as cleat marks on his body.

He has retained Boston lawyer Patrick T. Jones, who has said Williams might sue the players. Jones could not be reached for comment. However, Jones has said information released in the police report and statements by witnesses are consistent with his client's account of the fight.

After the alleged assault, Yankees president Randy Levine sparked a firestorm between the two front offices when he accused the Red Sox security force of being "lawless" in allowing the bullpen melee. "If that was our employee, he'd be gone, or in jail," he said.

Then, over the objections of Major League Baseball, Red Sox leaders held a news conference the next day -- prior to Game 4, which was rained out -- in which they denounced Levine's comments and threw their support behind Williams.

"I think when the facts come out that Mr. Williams will be vindicated," Sox owner John W. Henry said at the time, "but there were witnesses, including the Boston police force, throughout the game. So let's let the facts come out."

Gordon Edes and Michael Holley of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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