A court official decided yesterday that no criminal charges would be brought against Boston Red Sox fan Christopher House, saying he was reaching for the ball when he tangled with New York Yankee player Gary Sheffield at Fenway Park last month.
The assistant clerk magistrate at Boston Municipal Court also found that a second fan, Matthew Donovan, was bumped and accidentally sent his beer flying toward Sheffield, rather than tossing it, as Boston police alleged.
''The ball came down around the corner, and he reached down to get it," Mark J. Concannon, assistant clerk magistrate at Boston Municipal Court, said of House. ''Mr. Sheffield wasn't too happy with how things were going out there."
Concannon rejected a Boston police request for a criminal charge against House, of Dorchester, for disturbing a public assembly because he swung his arm in the direction of Sheffield as the Yankee was chasing down a Jason Varitek triple during the eighth inning of the April 14 game at Fenway Park.
Police requested the same charge against Donovan, of Dorchester, saying that he threw a beer at Sheffield as the player confronted House just before he threw the ball back into play. Police asked Concannon to charge the two men with disturbing a public assembly, a misdemeanor carrying a $50 fine or a maximum of one month in jail.
But Concannon declined the charges because of lack of evidence, after he heard testimony from two Boston police officers at a 15-minute closed hearing.
Police did not present video evidence that baseball officials said they gathered from New England Sports Network, Concannon said.
The Red Sox won the game, 8 to 5. The margin of victory came in the eighth inning, including two runs off Varitek's triple.
Concannon added: ''I think it was the heat of the competition between the Red Sox and the Yankees. You know how it is when those two teams play."
Donovan's lawyer, Timothy J. Birmingham of Cambridge, said that Donovan did not throw a beer at Sheffield, as police alleged. Donovan ''was jostled by two or three other fans, and the beer was knocked out of his hand," Birmingham said. ''He said there was no intent to hit Mr. Sheffield."
Sheffield said before last night's game at Tampa Bay: ''If that's the way you want to handle the situation, you handle it the way you see fit. But, you know, what happens when the next incident happens? If you feel that's setting an example, so be it."
Sheffield said he would not press charges on his own.
House and Donovan welcomed Concannon's ruling.
Patrick L. Courtney, spokesman for Major League Baseball, said: ''It is our feeling that everyone involved in this process did their duty."
''We had no opinion about any action by the city toward the fans from the start," said Red Sox spokesman Charles Steinberg. ''That had been independent of our area of interest."
The Red Sox have revoked House's seven season tickets for the rest of the season, but have not banned him from attending games. Steinberg said he was not sure whether House had returned his tickets yet. Once he does, Steinberg said, they will be added to the available ticket pool.
Donovan is not permitted to buy tickets himself, but can come to games at Fenway Park, Steinberg said.
Birmingham said in a telephone interview yesterday that this client would not be returning to Fenway Park in the near future, but remains a Red Sox fan. He added that Donovan and House were not friends and had attended the game independent of one another.
Donovan is an assistant clerk magistrate for the state Juvenile Court Department and is the son of Michael Joseph Donovan, Suffolk Superior Court clerk for civil business.
Concannon said he knows the elder Donovan from having worked for the court system for 33 years, but said he does not have a social or personal relationship with him that might influence his thinking in the case.
Officer Michael McCarthy, Boston police spokesman, said detectives at the hearing summarized the results of the department's investigation. ''It was the magistrate's decision not to issue the complaint," he said.
House and his lawyer, Matthew J. McCarthy, said after the hearing that House was ''very pleased with the outcome," according to the Associated Press.
John Ellement can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.