It was a cool crisp night last year on June 7 2011, and the entire Greek American community was excited as it was the first international soccer event hosted at Citifield in Flushing New York, the home of the Mets with the promise of more international soccer events to come.
Charalambos Lamprianou, in the United States on a Student Visa and studying international affairs at a New York College had front row seats to the game and was enjoying the event with close friends from his village in Cyprus. Little did he know as he sat cheering for Greece that same night that he would be taken away in handcuffs in an unfortunate incident and become embroiled in a case of criminal trespass that could not be negotiated or resolved because of an overzealous political agenda threatening to deport him because of his alleged “criminal act” of accidently falling on the field while reaching to catch a jersey.
After the 1-1 draw, Greece’s captain Giorgos Karagounis approached the section where Charalambos was sitting, and in the the usual soccer tradition with his shirt off was carrying all the game worn jerseys from the national team for purposes of throwing the jerseys to the fans. As you can imagine upon Karagounis first step towards the stadium section, the Greek fans started to run towards the edge of the stands in the hopes of catching a jersey.
Charalambos who was sitting right in the front section and also reaching out hoping to catch a jersey was suddenly caught in a chaotic swarm of enthusiasm and strength as fans reaching out over him caused him to fall over the rail of the stands and onto the field. Charalampos remembers getting up and saying to the other fans “Pios me esprokse, Kala re paidia yia mia fanella tha skotothoume.”
He then tried to climb back up into the bleachers but was swarmed upon by the Citifield security who grabbed him and he then found himself caught in a tug of war between Greek soccer fans trying to help him back into the stands and the Security crew who claimed he jumped on the field despite the fact that he had hurt himself by falling a distance of over 10 feet high. He didn’t run around the field, he did not run to any of the players, and the game was already over and much of the stadium was empty at the time.
Even Karagounis seeing him being taken away tried to throw a jersey at his direction as he was being taken off the field. What he did get was an entire year of drawn out litigation in the New York Criminal Court system being treated as a common criminal for what was an obvious accident. The Queens District Attorney despite being approached by community leaders said they had a “zero tolerance policy” for anyone who steps onto the field at Citifield.
He was charged with two serious criminal misdemeanors of trespass and a violation of NYC Code Section 10–162 for allegedly remaining on the playing area of a major venue sporting event – there was no plea bargain made available for Charalambos to reduce the charges to a violation and walk away with some community service, in the end he was even threatened to be deported.
PN agreed to take the case and jumped to Charalambos defense and instantly sough to obtain all evidence they could about the incident. Because the game was a major event in the Greek American community they were able to find witnesses who saw what happened and prepare a defense.
Theodore, a partner at the firm remarked, “they have spent over 600 million dollars to build this stadium and there are cameras everywhere covering every seat and every angle of the field, yet despite our requests, the District Attorney and Citifield could not produce one single image of Charalambos actually jumping on the field.” “I found that troubling and knew that Charambos was telling the truth and was now caught up in a political agenda”.
At the trial which was conducted by Joseph Nohavicka and Taso Pardalis of the firm, which finally concluded today on July 3, 2012 more than a year later, even the testimony of the officials at Citifield admitted that no one actually saw how Charalambos ended up on the field. After trial he was found Not Guilty by Supreme Court Judge Stephanie Zaro.
Charalambos stated “I never doubted for a minute that justice would prevail, and I never lost faith in the American criminal justice process”. Charalambos will be able to continue his studies in New York and hopes to one day meet Karagounis in person and get that signed Jersey.