Flyers fan ordered held for trial in postgame attack

Dennis Veteri, 32, of Glassboro, is charged.
Dennis Veteri, 32, of Glassboro, is charged. (Dennis Veteri)
Posted: March 23, 2012

It began with a guy spraying window cleaner at the two Rangers fans as they queued up with the crowd outside Geno's Steaks in South Philly after the Jan. 2 Winter Classic between the Rangers and Flyers.

There was laughter from a group of Flyers fans, testified Michael Janacko, and then the yell, "Go back to New York."

Pretty innocuous stuff, but not what happened next - an assault that left Janacko bruised and shaken and his friend Neal Auricchio Jr., 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.

On Thursday, Dennis Veteri, the only one of the pair's alleged assailants to be arrested, was ordered held for trial on assault charges after a preliminary hearing before Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Nazario Jimenez Jr.

Veteri, 32, a Glassboro bricklayer with a history of arrests for brawling, sat glumly, dressed in a tailored dark business suit.

A half-dozen men - all in black shirts - sat behind him in the gallery for support.

Defense attorney Michael A. DeFino tried unsuccessfully to get one of the aggravated-assault charges reduced and a conspiracy count dismissed.

In questioning Janacko and Auricchio, DeFino argued that they were active participants in what became a brawl and did their share of stoking the rivalry between the two groups of hockey fans.

DeFino also questioned how seriously the two were injured given that they left and drove to a hospital near their homes in North Jersey.

"If I got beaten up, I'd go to the first police officer and the nearest hospital," DeFino said.

Janacko said he just wanted to get out of the area and did not know whether there were nearby police stations or hospitals in South Philadelphia.

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 Flyers lost to the Rangers, 3-2.

Afterward, crowds of Flyers and Rangers fans sporting team jerseys headed for Ninth Street and Passyunk Avenue to get steak sandwiches at the South Philly institution Geno's.

Janacko smiled as he recalled the trash talk that began the fight.

"There was a little banter," Janacko said, adding that he replied to the taunts: "We're going back to New York as soon as we get our cheesesteaks."

" 'You got a big mouth,' " Janacko said Veteri called. He said Veteri approached him, knocked his Winter Classic cap to the ground, and spat and stepped on it.

"I told him he was a scumbag for doing it," Janacko testified. "Absolutely."

Janacko said Veteri punched him and then he was on the ground getting hit and kicked by two or three people.

Assistant District Attorney Francis McCloskey showed the judge cellphone footage of the assault in which a man identified as Veteri and an unidentified man punch Auricchio as he tries to quell the arguing between Janacko and Veteri.

Veteri allegedly blindsided the already dazed off-duty officer with a punch, knocking him unconscious and breaking his orbital bone.

Janacko, 26, a paramedic, said he missed five days of work and would soon see a neurologist to test for "post-concussion syndrome.

Auricchio, 30, said he missed two months of work after the assault. He said he needed five stitches to close a cut in his face, and surgeons reassembled the orbital bone around his left eye with a titanium plate. He said he still suffers from periodic blurred or double vision.


Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian

at 215-854-2985, jslobodzian@phillynews.com, or follow @joeslobo on Twitter.

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