New York Daily News
The Rangers fan charged with knocking the lights out of a Tampa Bay Lightning fan at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night was actually trying to “defuse and de-escalate” a boozy situation, his lawyer says.
“We believe that Garden surveillance will confirm the events which took place immediately prior to the short, viral clip captured on cellphone camera,” said Jason Goldman, a lawyer representing suspect James Anastasio.
Viral video showed the incident in which Anastasio, 29, allegedly sucker-punched a 26-year-old Massachusetts man as they exited the stadium where the Rangers fell to Tampa Bay 3-1 during game five of the Eastern Conference matchup.
The Tampa Bay fan fell backward and hit his head on the tiled floor as stunned fans surrounded him, the clip shows.
A good Samaritan who witnessed the attack followed Anastasio in an attempt to stop him — but Anastasio punched his pursuer in the face too, police said.
Shortly after, the Lightning fan came to. Madison Square Garden staff treated both him and the good Samaritan.
Goldman claims Anastasio, a Staten Island resident, was acting in self defense.
Anastasio “repeatedly tried to defuse and de-escalate the situation, one where he was immensely outnumbered and ultimately threatened by a group of highly intoxicated individuals,” Goldman said.
Police responding to the scene charged Anastasio with two counts of assault and two counts of harassment.
“While he is anxious for the rest of his story to be revealed, he also trusts and respects the court process,” Goldman said. “We are confident that James will be vindicated once all the facts come to light.”
Anastasio has been banned from Madison Square Garden and all other MSG venues for life, Garden spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz said.