NHL Winter Classic beating suspect held for trial

A Glassboro, N.J., man has been held for trial on all charges in an attack on two New York Rangers fans in South Philadelphia following the NHL Winter Classic.

The melee, which happened Jan. 2 outside Geno’s Steaks on Passyunk Avenue, was captured on a cell phone camera and posted on YouTube. Prosecutors claim Dennis Veteri, 32, led a group of rowdy Flyers fans who picked a fight with two Rangers fans and then brutally assaulted them.

Michael Janocko testified that he and friend Neal Aurrichio were waiting in line at Geno’s when they were sprayed with a cleaning substance by someone. When they looked in the direction of the person who sprayed them they saw a group of men, which included Veteri, wearing Flyers jerseys and laughing. Janocko said he briefly exchanged words with the men when the confrontation turned physical.

“They approached us telling us we had big mouths, though we didn’t” Janocko said.

He said one of the men then smacked the hat off his head and stepped on it, which prompted Janocko to call the men “scumbags.” At that point, Veteri took off his coat and took a fighting stance. Veteri swung at Janocko and missed when Aurrichio stepped in. Two or three men then began punching Aurrichio, who was lying on the ground, Janocko testified. When he tried to step in and pull the men off of Aurrichio, Janocko said, two or three people turned on him and began punching him.

Once the fight ended, Janocko said he and Aurrichio left and drove to a hospital in New Jersey near their home to get treatment for Aurrichio. Janocko said he later sought treatment and suffered post-concussion syndrome, along with minor cuts and bruises.

Aurrichio, an Iraq war veteran and police officer in Woodbridge, N.J., testified that one of the Flyers fans gave money to the person who sprayed he and Janocko. The fighting ensued, he said, and the last thing he remembered was getting punched in the face and blacking out. Aurrichio said he didn’t see who threw the knockout punch.

Assistant District Attorney Francis McCloskey played the video on a large screen in the courtroom, which seems to show Veteri land the big blow on Aurrichio.

Veteri’s attorney, Michael De Fino, tried to argue, through questioning, that Janocko and Aurrichio initiated the physical contact and that Veteri did not conspire with the other assailants who have not been identified.

Common Pleas Court Judge Nazario Jimenez ordered Veteri held on aggravated assault, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person. His next court appearance is scheduled for April 12.

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