(PHILADELPHIA) — A man accused of assaulting police officers and rioting in last Sunday’s wedding brawl at a Philadelphia hotel said he’s innocent of the charges.
Matthew Sofka, who’d attended his brother’s wedding at a different locale, gave the first insider’s account of how two couples’ wedding nights ended in chaos. In a video of the brawl, the 26-year-old Sofka — the son of a former police officer — is seen receiving repeated hits with a police baton and a Tasering before he was arrested and thrown into jail.
According to Sofka’s lawyer, Fortunato Perri Jr., when Sofka arrived at the Sheraton Society Hill hotel from his brother’s wedding reception with family and friends, the melee involving a separate wedding party held at the Sheraton Society Hill was already under way.
Perri told ABC News that Sofka’s girlfriend was thrown to the ground, and that his client was trying to help her up when he was “approached by police from behind. …Unaware who was behind him, he extended an arm.”
Police said the fight, fueled by alcohol and rising tempers, had taken over the Sheraton’s bar and lobby. The entire brawl was captured on video and posted on YouTube by a 15-year-old hotel guest, Max Schultz, who was awakened by the ruckus. The video has gone viral, and has been viewed more than 900,000 times.
Perri said that Sofka, who was released from jail Monday on $25,000 bail, was struck by one officer and put into a choke hold by another.
“Other members of the police department continued to try to subdue him. Ultimately he was [Tasered], I believe a couple of times,” Perri said.
According to the criminal complaint, police said the force was justified because Sofka “knowingly, intentionally or recklessly caused/attempted to cause bodily injury” to a police sergeant. The complaint goes on to say that Sofka, and approximately three others, “punched and kicked the sergeant in the head and body.”
Wedding guests have fired back at the police response and their use of force to control the massive brawl.
Perri said the fight had nothing to do with the Sofka wedding party, but that the incident had taken the biggest toll on Sofka’s new family, as the uncle of 28-year-old Nicole Sannuti, Sofka’s new sister-in-law, died that night.
Vincent Sannuti reportedly tried to move his family away from the fight and then collapsed outside the hotel. The 57-year-old later died after reportedly suffering a heart attack.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ray Sanchez, CNN Newswire
Chuck Johnston, CNN Newswire