THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Wednesday, June 21, 1995 TAG: 9506210519 SECTION: FRONT PAGE: A1 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: BY MARC DAVIS, STAFF WRITER LENGTH: Medium: 82 lines
An appeals court on Tuesday overturned the convictions of basketball star Allen Iverson, saying prosecutors did not prove he was part of a mob during a 1993 bowling alley brawl in Hampton.
The Virginia Court of Appeals overturned Iverson's three convictions on charges of ``maiming by mob'' and sent the case back to Hampton Circuit Court. That means Iverson could be prosecuted on new charges.
Hampton prosecutors declined to comment, referring questions to the state attorney general's office, which handled the appeal.
In Richmond, Don Harrison, a spokesman for Attorney General James S. Gilmore III, said it is too early to know what will happen next.
One of Iverson's attorneys, Thomas B. Shuttleworth, said, ``We're sure the commonwealth's attorney does not want to institute a new proceeding that could be racially divisive to the citizens of Hampton.''
Iverson, a freshman phenom last year at Georgetown University, was convicted after a racially tinged free-for-all in a Hampton bowling alley in February 1993.
He was sentenced to five years in prison but served four months before then-Gov. L. Douglas Wilder granted him clemency on Dec. 30, 1993.
On Tuesday, the appeals court ruled that there was enough evidence to convict Iverson of assault, but not enough evidence to prove that he was part of a mob. The court also overturned convictions for two of Iverson's friends who also were at the bowling alley.
In Virginia, a mob is defined as ``any collection of people assembled for the purpose . . . of committing an assault or a battery.'' Iverson's lawyers argued that prosecutors did not prove that there was a mob in the bowling alley that night.
In their written opinion Tuesday, the three appeals judges said they did not have to rule on that point.
``Even if the evidence proved that some of the people in the bowling alley assembled in a manner to constitute a mob,'' the court wrote, ``no evidence proved that Iverson was a member of that mob.''
Another of Iverson's attorneys, Lawrence H. Woodward Jr., said that Iverson and Georgetown officials were ``obviously delighted.'' Although prosecutors could bring new charges against Iverson, ``obviously we hope that doesn't happen,'' Woodward said.
On the night of the fight, Iverson had gone to the crowded Circle Lanes Bowling Alley with five high school friends. The fight broke out about midnight when Iverson exchanged words with Steven Forrest of Poquoson, who was drinking beer with friends at a table near the snack bar.
Forrest testified that Iverson approached his table and cursed him for no reason, and when Forrest stood up to tell Iverson that ``we don't have a problem,'' someone hit him on the back of the head.
Iverson testified that the brawl began when someone drinking beer near the snack bar called him ``nigger'' and ``little boy,'' then struck Iverson on the head with a chair.
This triggered a chair-throwing melee involving 25 to 50 people. Several people were hurt.
The appeals court wrote, ``Iverson's confrontation with Forrest was an incident that may have precipitated a brawl, but was separate from any mob activity. No evidence proved that Iverson was a member of any mob that later formed.''
At trial, there was testimony that Iverson threw a chair that hurt someone, but Iverson has denied it.
The appeals court ruled that there was enough evidence to prove ``individual assaultive conduct'' by Iverson, but ``insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Iverson acted as part of a mob.''
Earlier this year, two key figures in the Iverson case won judicial promotions. Hampton Commonwealth's Attorney Christopher Hutton, who oversaw the prosecution of Iverson, was appointed to a Circuit Court judgeship. Judge Nelson Overton, who convicted Iverson, was promoted to the Court of Appeals but did not participate in the Iverson appeal. ILLUSTRATION: Photo
The court said prosecutors did not prove that Allen Iverson, above,
had been part of a mob during a 1993 brawl at a Hampton bowling
KEYWORDS: ASSAULT INJURIES TRIAL VERDICT by CNB