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Man arrested and banned from Madison Square Garden after allegedly assaulting two men after hockey game

<i>Robert Joseph Kaplan</i><br/>A man was arrested and charged after allegedly assaulting two men at Madison Square Garden Thursday
Robert Joseph Kaplan
A man was arrested and charged after allegedly assaulting two men at Madison Square Garden Thursday

By Liam Reilly and Sharif Paget, CNN

A 29-year-old man was arrested and charged after he allegedly assaulted two men following an NHL playoff game at Madison Square Garden this week, the New York City Police Department told CNN.

Around 10:50 p.m. Thursday, following the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning game, police said two men got into a verbal dispute that quickly became physical.

One of the men — James Anastasio — allegedly punched the other in the face, causing him to fall to the ground and lose consciousness, police said.

The suspect then attempted to flee, police said, but was chased by a man they described as a good Samaritan, whom Anastasio also allegedly punched in the face, police said. Both victims refused medical attention and Anastasio was immediately arrested, they said.

The incident was partially captured in a cell phone video, which was posted online.

Anastasio, 29, was arraigned around midnight Friday and charged with two counts of assault in the third degree, two counts of attempted assault in the third degree, and two counts of harassment in the second degree, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office told CNN.

He was granted supervised release and is slated to appear in court June 29, the DA’s office added.

Jason Goldman, Anastasio’s defense attorney, said his client “repeatedly tried to defuse and deescalate the situation, one where he was immensely outnumbered and ultimately threatened by a group of highly intoxicated individuals.”

“We believe that Garden surveillance will confirm the events immediately prior to the short, viral clip captured on cellphone camera,” Goldman said. “While he is anxious for the rest of his story to be revealed, he also trusts and respects the Court process. We are confident that James will be vindicated once all the facts come to light.”

MSG bans alleged assailant for life

MSG called the incident “an abhorrent assault” and praised the good Samaritan’s actions as brave intervention, according to a statement. The venue also banned Anastasio for life.

“All guests — no matter what team they support — should feel safe and respected in The Garden. This has and always will be our policy,” MSG said in the statement.

Robert Joseph Kaplan captured the incident on camera. Kaplan told CNN that while he’s been to plenty of games in the past, he’s never seen anything like this.

Prior to the alleged assault, Kaplan said he saw Anastasio and another man angrily insulting Tampa Bay Lightning fans as they were descending the venue’s escalators. He described the insults as “intense” and claimed there was a lack of security by the escalators.

An MSG spokesperson told CNN the alleged assailant was taken into custody within 30 seconds by NYPD security detail and MSG security. There were 183 uniformed MSG security officers, 14 supervisors, 18 NYPD officers and two NYPD sergeants on paid detail inside the venue Thursday night, the spokesperson said.

Amid the alleged insults, Kaplan said an empty beer cup was thrown in the direction of Anastasio and the man he was with. He said the two waited for the victim and confronted him, asking if he was the person who had thrown the cup. It’s at this point Kaplan said he took out his phone to record the scene because he sensed something bad was about to happen.

“I thought that was pretty disgusting,” Kaplan told CNN. “Something like this shouldn’t happen.”

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