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Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Nelson, Garcia agree to probation, service

Associated Press

BOSTON -- Two former New York Yankees players who allegedly assaulted a Fenway Park groundskeeper during the 2003 American League Championship series agreed Tuesday to a deal that calls for the charges against them to be dropped in six months.

Karim Garcia
Jeff Nelson

Pitcher Jeff Nelson and outfielder Karim Garcia agreed to pretrial probation at a hearing in Roxbury District Court. The players will perform 50 hours of community service and be evaluated to determine whether they need to attend an anger management program.

The case was scheduled to go to trial Tuesday, but the players reached a last-minute deal with prosecutors to avoid a trial.

"While sufficient evidence exists to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, the conduct of Nelson and Garcia does not merit criminal convictions," the district attorney's office said in a statement.

Nelson, 37, now plays for the Texas Rangers. Garcia, 28, was released this August by the Baltimore Orioles.

After the hearing, Nelson blamed the media for the way the trial was covered.

"We told our story in the beginning and you guys were the ones that twisted it around, so what can I say?" he said.

"[Boston has] always been one of my favorite cities, but it's a shame that this tarnished it a little bit."

Asked whether he felt he was treated unfairly by authorities because he played for the Red Sox's archrivals, Nelson said, "I know you can answer that one."

Garcia declined comment.

Assistant Attorney General David Fredette said the case was handled the same way his office would handle any high-profile case involving two defendants with no prior record.

"We didn't treat them any differently -- better or worse," he said.

Nelson and Garcia would have faced up to 2½ years in prison if convicted.

Charges were dropped last week against Paul Williams, 25, of Derry, N.H., a part-time groundskeeper who got into the brawl with the two players. Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley said a review found there wasn't enough evidence to back up a cross-complaint brought by Nelson against Williams, who teaches special education at a middle school in New Hampshire.

The fight broke out after Williams cheered for the Red Sox while in the bullpen during the third game of the ALCS on Oct. 11, 2003. Earlier in the game, a bench-clearing melee broke out after Garcia was plunked by Boston pitcher Pedro Martinez.

In February, Williams sued the players for more than $33,000 for medical bills, lost wages and loss of his sense of smell. He said the fight left him with a deviated septum, broken teeth, a neck injury and cleat marks on his body.

Williams' attorney, Pat Jones, said the deal prosecutors struck with Nelson and Garcia wouldn't affect his client's civil case.

Fredette told the judge that a videotape of the fight revealed that Williams' most serious injuries were inflicted by other players who jumped into the fracas, not by Nelson and Garcia.

"It'd be nice of you guys to write that," Nelson told a reporter as he walked out of the courtroom.