The Philadelphia Flyers fan arrested for knocking out a New York Rangers fan during a trash-talk-turned-melee outside South Philly’s Geno’s Steaks after the Jan. 2 “Winter Classic” has pleaded guilty to aggravated and simple assault and conspiracy.
Dennis Veteri, 32, entered the guilty plea Tuesday before Common Pleas Court Judge Ellen Ceisler. Veteri, a bricklayer from Glassboro in South Jersey, remains free on $250,000 bail pending sentencing on Oct. 26.
According to court documents, the guilty plea was not negotiated with the District Attorney’s office, which means there is no agreement on Veteri’s sentence. The aggravated assault charge is graded as a first-degree felony, which under state law carries a maximum prison term of 20 years.
The Winter Classic, an annual outdoor professional hockey game, was played this year on a specially built ice rink in the Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park. The Rangers beat the Flyers, 3-2.
Not surprisingly, fans of both teams repaired afterward to Geno’s at Ninth Street and Passyunk Avenue to order cheesesteak “wit” except that this time the “wit” included knuckles.
According to testimony at a preliminary hearing in March, the incident began with a Flyer’s fan spraying window cleaner at two Rangers fans as they queued up outside Geno’s.
A group of Flyers fans laughed and yelled “Go back to New York,” testified Michael Janacko, who said he returned the banter in kind, calling “We’re going back to New York as soon as we get our cheesesteaks.”
It went downhill from there. Janacko said Veteri told him “You got a big mouth," knocked his Winter Classic cap to the ground and spat and stepped on it.
Janacko said he called Veteri a “scumbag for doing it,” and Veteri punched him to the ground where he was hit and kicked by two or three people. The assault left Janacko, 26, bruised and shaken and his friend Neal Auricchio Jr., 30, an off-duty Woodbridge, N.J., police officer, unconscious with a concussion, his face cut and swollen, and the bone around his left eye shattered.
Veteri was the only person arrested, in part because of cellphone video in which a man identified as Veteri and another unidentified man punch Auricchio as he tries to intervene in the arguing between Janacko and Veteri.