Judge quadruples bail in attack on Rangers fan outside Geno’s

Posted: January 18, 2012

A judge quadrupled the bail Wednesday for the Flyers fan who allegedly instigated the attack that left a New York Rangers fan unconscious and badly injured after the Winter Classic hockey game.

Dennis Veteri, 32, of Glassboro, had posted 10 percent of $100,000 bail after he was arrested last week for the Jan. 2 assault outside Geno's Steaks.

After Common Pleas Judge Paula A. Patrick increased bail to $400,000 - the District Attorney's Office had strenuously objected to the lower amount - Veteri and his family posted an additional $30,000, and he remained free.

In cellphone footage of the assault, Veteri and an unidentified man punch Neal Auricchio Jr. to the ground after the off-duty Woodbridge, N.J., police officer attempted to calm an argument, according to prosecutors. They say the squabble started when Veteri knocked the hat of Auricchio's friend to the ground and spit in it.

In the video, prosecutors say, Veteri blindsided the already dazed Auricchio with a punch, knocking him unconscious and breaking his orbital bone.

Patrick cited Veteri's lengthy criminal record in raising the bail.

Veteri has 11 prior arrests - and seven convictions - in four states, all for assault or drugs, but has always managed to elude prison time for probation.

Six of his arrests came in South Philadelphia, where he grew up near 13th and Federal Streets.

In 1998, when he was 18, Veteri stabbed his brother Nicholas, who is a year older. The men had been fist-fighting in the street.

Nicholas was "getting the best of his brother," according to a police report. Dennis went inside for a kitchen knife and thrust it into Nicholas' right thigh.

Nicholas called police. Dennis ran. Nicholas got four stitches at St. Agnes Hospital. The case was eventually dismissed.

By October 1998, Veteri and his brother had apparently reconciled enough to spend an afternoon with a loaded shotgun hunting a man through the streets of South Philadelphia.

Veteri had gotten into an argument with the man, who is black, during a pickup football game.

"If you want beef, I got a shotgun pumped in the trunk," Dennis Veteri yelled, according to a police report.

Later, the Veteri brothers and some friends returned to find the man on a corner near Seventh and Oregon.

Dennis Veteri held the shotgun as the group chased the man into a home, where he called police. Veteri was charged with aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation, and received three years' probation.

In October 2003, Veteri and his brother attempted to rob a man on the 1700 block of Jackson Street, according to police records. The victim told police he knew Dennis Veteri by his neighborhood nickname, Shemp, and feared him for his reputation of robbing people.

Armed with a pellet gun, Dennis Veteri chased the man into his home, yelling to his brother, "I got him." The man dialed 911. That case was dismissed for a lack of witnesses.

Veteri was also arrested twice in Philadelphia for heroin possession, including in 2010, when he was caught with a bundle of heroin, said assistant prosecutor Caroline Keating-McGlynn. He received six months' probation for that offense.

Veteri was also arrested in Florida, Georgia, and Maryland for drug and assault, records show.

Veteri's attorney, Michael A. DeFino, said in court that Veteri, a broad-shouldered bricklayer with three children, including an autistic son, has battled drug addiction. He said the fight outside Geno's was being tried by the media.

"This has taken on a life of its own," he said.

Neither Veteri nor his family commented after the hearing. He faces a preliminary hearing Jan. 31.

Auricchio, a Marine who served two tours in Iraq, and who was awarded the Purple Heart after being shot in the calf, will need surgery to repair his fractured left orbital bone, Keating-McGlynn said.

Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac, a friend of the Auricchio family, said Auricchio hopes to return to his police officer's job sometime in March.

"Neal will be back in uniform the first second he can be," he said.


Contact staff writer Mike Newall at 215-854-2759, mnewall@phillynews.com, or @MikeNewall on Twitter.

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