Witness Tells Court Of Night A Friend Died Six Are On Trial In The Slaying. But There Was More To It Than Just A Fight, Lawyers Said.

Posted: June 20, 1992

Robert Sciarrillo did not remember a lot of details about the violent clash, but he did recall why he and a friend had gone over to confront some Asians that hot summer night.

"I guess we were going to lump 'em up - hit 'em," Sciarrillo said.

Defense attorneys were trying to use Sciarrillo's testimony to try to acquit six young Asian men who are accused of killing Sciarrillo's friend, David Reilly, 18, slain on a Southwest Philadelphia playground almost a year ago.

Sciarrillo came to court in a bright white T-shirt that showed off his tattooed left arm and the beefy look of a strongman out of shape.

The lawyers were determined to paint him as a racist. He was convicted of ethnic intimidation in an unrelated 1988 incident, and placed on probation for a year, after a black man said Sciarrillo and others surrounded his car, kicked it and broke the windshield with a bottle.

Defense attorneys have asked Common Pleas Court Judge David N. Savitt to

allow them to tell the jury about the 1988 case to support their claim that white youths provoked the violence that led to Reilly's death.

Sciarrillo seemed puzzled by the lawyers' use of words like animosity, forgetful about many details. He sketched out a picture of that August night, steeped in alcohol, ending with Reilly prostrate and bloodied on the sidewalk.

He spoke in short, unemotional answers, describing how he and many other friends had gathered in a cemetery, drinking beer from a half-keg. A smaller number headed from the cemetery to nearby McCreesh Playground at Regent and 66th Streets, he said. They gathered on some bleachers, drank some more beer

from a couple of six packs.

"I guess I was pretty drunk," he said.

A group of Asians were some distance away on the playground, also drinking, he continued. His friend, Brian Parker, decided that one of those Asians previously "had chased him with a pipe or something." He and Parker headed over to even the score, he testified.

"All of a sudden," Sciarrillo said, one of the Asians left and returned with a bag full of knives. Some of the Asians were armed with them. "After I seen they had knives, I started running," he said.

Slipping and falling at one point, he nonetheless escaped, his 6-foot, 235- pound frame unscathed. As he ran, he came upon his friend, Reilly, down on the sidewalk - stabbed twice from two knives. Reilly had not been with Parker and Sciarrillo when the pair confronted the Asians. Reilly had come later, trying to defuse the confrontation, Sciarrillo said.

Prosecutors concede they don't know which of the six Asians stabbed Reilly, but they contend that all six share guilt, because they acted together to pursue the white youths.

As Sciarrillo testified, Reilly's parents sat in the first row of seats inside the big, ornate courtroom. They watched in quiet anguish as Sciarrillo used a pointer to trace his movements on a giant artist's drawing of the playground, movements that ended with his call to police to summon help for their son.

Sciarrillo recalled virtually nothing about Reilly's actions before the post-midnight melee last Aug. 3, or what happened to him or anyone else during it. He did not recall seeing anyone actually stabbed, for instance. Although he told detectives hours after the killing that all the Asians had picked up knives, he was less sure about that yesterday.

Staring downward during much of his testimony, Sciarrillo responded to a series of harsh questions from the six defense lawyers.

No, he said, he did not menace the Asians by telling them he owned a pit bull that could bite them.

No, he said, he did not hear one of the Asian men deny that they had threatened Parker earlier.

No, he said, he did not slap away a hand that one of the Asian men had extended in a peace-making gesture. He testified that he did not say, "I'm friends with Americans only, not no chinks."

Yes, he conceded, he has at times used the words gook and chink.

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