Sunday, February 21, 2016
It's been exactly two weeks since former Eagles running back LeSean "Shady" McCoy allegedly got involved in a Feb. 7th brawl at the Recess Lounge, supposedly over a $350 bottle of pink champagne.
It took only four days for Mayor Jim Kenney to pronounce McCoy guilty. On Friday, 12 days after the incident, John McNesby, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, went on the WIP morning show to announce that the district attorney's investigation should be over by now.
"I've never waited this long, ever, to see somebody arrested," McNesby told WIP morning show host Angelo Cataldi. "So it doesn't pass the smell test. Something's funny going on. I know that they have more discovery on this case than they had in the O.J. Simpson case."
That prompted the district attorney to respond, "We're not going to rush because some people are impatient. My only goal is to get it right, not fast. The last thing we need is a rush to judgment."
So why would the district attorney be dragging his feet? The factual chronology from the previously undisclosed Shady side of the story indicates that there may be plenty of valid reasons. McNesby may be right about the case not passing the smell test, but it might be his guys who reek of too much pink champagne.
For starters, two of the three cops involved in the fracas at the Recess Lounge at 125 Second St., were seen earlier in the night partying at another night club in Old City, the Reserve Lounge on 724 Arch St. The cops, Officer Roland Butler and Sgt. Daniel Ayers, were off-duty at the time and drinking. And according to what two witnesses told investigators, both men appeared to be clearly intoxicated.
The off-duty officers were hard to miss. Ayers, known to clubbers as "Sgt. Dan," is described as a frequent barfly. And Officer Butler is the size of an NFL tight end, at 6-foot-4, and at least 250 pounds.
McCoy showed up at both nightclubs with five male friends, identified as Chris Henderson, LeVar Burhanan, former Pitt running back Tamarcus Porter, Mikal Ellis, and Ryan Brim. McCoy's party was accompanied by a pair of young women who were also known to the cops. McCoy's side of the story is that when he stopped by the Reserve Lounge, he didn't have a drink. He and his friends were going to a concert at the Sound Garden later that night.
At the Reserve Lounge, there apparently was no contact between the cops and McCoy and his friends. After McCoy and his entourage left to go to a concert, the young women stayed behind. When they left, they told the cops they were going to continue the party at the Recess Lounge, where they planned to meet up with McCoy and his friends.
The cops and the young women drove in two separate cars, but ran into a problem on their way to the Recess Lounge. When they turned off Market St. onto 2nd St., the road was blocked by a barricade and a police officer.
According to witnesses, Officer Ayres was driving. He got out of his car and flashed his badge at the cop manning the barricade. The officer on the street moved the barricade out of the way, allowing the cops to drive down Second Street. But the officer wouldn't let the car with the two young women pass by. That's when Officer Butler got out of his car, flashed his badge at the cop, and the two young women were allowed to drive down Second Street on their way to the Recess Lounge.
Expect defense lawyers in the case to suggest that both Sgt. Ayres and Officer Butler abused their badges when they both asked the cop on the street to move the barricade. And expect the defense lawyers to ask the cop manning the barricade whether Sgt. Ayres and Officer Butler were sober enough to be driving.
At the Recess Lounge, the two young women went in while the cops waited outside. When the two cops entered the club, they were joined by a third off-duty cop, Officer Darnell Jessie. McCoy and his friends were already there. It was between 1:45 and 2 a.m. The McCoy party was joined by as many as nine women, including the two young women who had been at the Reserve Lounge earlier that night.
The cops ordered four bottles of Moet & Chandon Rose Champagne priced at $350 each. Now, we know McCoy, who makes $8 million a year, can afford a bottle of champagne at that price. But the district attorney may wonder how three Philly cops who earn an average salary of some $70,000 a year can afford a $1,400 bar tab.
At McCoy's table, he and his buddies had ordered two bottles of Moet & Chandon Rose Champagne, two bottles of Hennessy Cognac, and one bottle of Patron tequila.
A witness standing next to McCoy said that Christopher Henderson, one of McCoy's pals, stepped on his foot by mistake. The witness told investigators that Henderson was respectful and apologetic. To the point where he began sharing his drinks with the witness.
Everybody was having a nice time when a waitress came over to McCoy's table bearing a bottle of pink champagne and some sparklers. McCoy and friends were waiting for the sparklers to go out when Officer Butler showed up unannounced at their table.
Apparently, one of the four bottles of champagne that the cops had ordered was missing. It may have been deliberate; some witnesses say that Sgt. Ayers may have sent over a bottle of champagne to one of the young women at McCoy's table, who may have been celebrating a birthday.
Officer Butler, however, seemed to believe that the waitress had mistakenly delivered a bottle of his pink champagne to the wrong table. Officer Butler then grabbed the bottle of pink champagne off McCoy's table and started to leave. He got into an altercation over the bottle with McCoy's friends.
Tamarcus Porter asked Butler, what are you doing, man, and the two had words. LeVar Burhanan tried to grab the bottle away from Butler. Butler told Burhanan words to the effect of, you touch that bottle and I'm gonna drop your ass. Burhanan, trying to calm things down, told Sgt. Ayres to come over and get his man. The sergeant showed up at McCoy's table in an attempt to diffuse the situation. But Butler made a show of taking off his coat and puffing up his chest, witnesses said, before coming right at Porter, who at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, was at a distinct disadvantage against the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Officer Butler.
Butler, according to witnesses, got in Porter's face, grabbed him by the neck and body slammed him to the ground, where he proceeded to pin Porter. Witnesses described Butler on top of Porter, holding the former Pitt star by his dreadlocks. McCoy rushed over with his friends, fell, and then got up. In a video clip of the incident, McCoy appears to be throwing a punch that may have missed its target. McCoy's story is he was attempting to pull Butler's hands off Porter's neck but was unsuccessful. A woman pulled McCoy back. Meanwhile, on the ground of the VIP lounge, Porter was able to hip toss Butler off of him.
A melee ensued. One of the men attacking Officer Butler had a bottle in his hand. Officer Butler wound up getting punched and stomped. Club bouncers rushed in.
It got ugly real fast was how one witness described it.
As McCoy was being led away from the melee, he felt someone shove him. He turned around and saw Sgt. Ayres standing beside another man. Sgt. Ayres got shoved. Then, a witness saw Sgt. Ayres reach for his firearm, a black 9 mm pistol. The witness told McCoy that Sgt. Ayres was a cop, and pulled McCoy away.
On the police side of the story, the gun presents another problem. According to a directive from the police commissioner, off-duty officers are not supposed to carry guns inside bars. Sgt. Dan may have some explaining to do.
The club bouncers evicted the three cops and Porter. A witness outside the club saw the bouncers throw Butler hard to the ground. Uniformed cops were standing within 15 feet but didn't do anything. Butler was still protesting that he wanted to go after the guy with the dreads. McCoy came outside and told Sgt. Ayres to come get his man and take him away.
According to police procedures, after the fracas, Butler and his fellow off-duty officers should have called 911 and waited for on-duty police officers to arrive at the scene and conduct an investigation.
But what did Officer Butler do? He apparently drove past several Philadelphia hospitals on his way to checking himself in at Delaware County Memorial Hospital in Upper Darby, where he was treated for a laceration to his right eye, a broken nose, broken ribs and a sprained thumb.
Expect defense lawyers in the case to ask whether Officer Butler fled the scene and drove around in an attempt to sober up.
Officer Jesse was admitted to Hahnemann University Hospital where he received eight stitches over his left eye and treatment for a possible skull fracture. Sgt. Ayers was uninjured but filed a police report two days after the altercation.
McCoy was uninjured, and no bouncer bothered to evict him from the club. McCoy's lawyer, Dennis Cogan, told the Buffalo News, "I'm telling you that McCoy did nothing wrong, nothing wrong. And he was sober. The questions will have to be asked about the conditions of the other people."
Photographs were taken of McCoy's hands right after the battle: they show he didn't have bruises or any other sign of injury.
As for Officer Butler, at 4 a.m. Feb. 7th, hours after the fracas, he posted comments on his Facebook page that said that the guys who attacked him "can't hide behind Shady." Some 96 comments were posted on Butler's page.
The next day, Officer Butler admitted to witnesses that he was drunk at the time of the altercation. He said he was going to see a civil lawyer. Subsequently, Butler's Facebook page was taken down.
So we have a big drunken cop apparently starting the altercation by grabbing one of McCoy's friends by the neck and body-slamming him to the ground. Butler is identified as one of the guilty parties by club bouncers who evict him, along with his two fellow plainclothes cops, and Porter. The bouncers let McCoy stay inside the club but he voluntarily goes outside to act as peacemaker, according to the witness outside the club. The lawyers in the case are left to fight over whether some of Officer Butler's injuries were caused by the bouncers.
That's the Shady side of the story. No wonder the district attorney may have reservations about the case.
The D.A.'s investigation may have to explore whether Officer Butler and Sgt. Ayres abused their authority by possibly driving while intoxicated, and asking a fellow officer to twice move a barrier on Second Street. The off-duty cops may have to explain why they didn't call 911, and why Sgt. Ayres may have been packing a gun, in violation of the police commissioner's directives.
They will also have to explain their bar-hopping, and that $1,400 bar tab.
Yo Mr. Mayor and Mr. McNesby, you better be patient. This D.A.'s investigation may go on for a while.
Ralph Cipriano can be reached at email@example.com.