Kyle Lewis, manager and bartender at Coupe DeVille’s on Elliewood Avenue, was talking with a friend outside the entrance on the night of June 30 when he noticed the awning at the top of the brick stairs shaking. Peering up, he saw a scuffle in progress. He grabbed his friend John Minturn, a former bouncer, and headed up.
Jason Hoffman was the only one charged with assault for a brawl involving UVA wrestlers.
What he found was a brawl that the courts have yet to sort out. “They were both grabbing each other and pulling,” Lewis told a Charlottesville General District Court Room almost four months later.
One of those involved was Matt Federici, a fifth year engineering student at UVA and a member of the wrestling team. He was there with more members of the team who had gathered around as the fight broke out. With the exception of Federici, they all headed back toward the Biltmore, where the fight had originally begun when a wrestling recruit and 22-year-old Jason Hoffman bumped into each other at the upstairs bar.
“Words were spoken,” wrestler Calvin Cardillo told the court. He couldn’t hear them from across the bar, but they were heated enough to cause the two to be ushered outside by friends.
Outside, the war of words turned into action, not between the recruit and Hoffman, but between Federici and Hoffman. “Around 12, I was walking out to get on my phone, and I remember walking down the stairs,” Federici said in court, “and that’s about all I really remember.” Only a few minutes later, he was knocked unconscious by a blow to the side of his head that caused him to fall to the ground where the back of his head hit the pavement.
“It appears that his head was in a puddle of blood,” said Officer Justin Young in court. He was on 14th Street when he got the call that there was a group of UVA wrestlers outside of Coupe DeVille’s waiting to jump some guys. As he headed over, Hoffman and Federici somehow became entangled again.
Minturn testified that he heard someone say “Nice shirt, faggot,” and headed to the top of the stairs where he saw Federici push Hoffman’s younger brother, Sam, and stepped in between the two. Jason stood beside his brother. Then, Minturn testified, “I saw Mr. Hoffman, the older brother, basically just kind of punch Mr. Federici on the side of the head.”
The aggregate testimony was enough to charge Jason Hoffman with a felony count of unlawful wounding. A trial date is set for April 16 when a defense witness—a British citizen who placed the initial 911 call—can return to the states. Hoffman’s attorney Lloyd Snook says he will likely try to establish that there were additional blows thrown by at least one of the wrestlers.
Hoffman’s mugshot, taken the morning after the fight, shows a bruised, swollen eye. In Officer Young’s police report, he reveals that upon arriving at the scene, he was directed to Hoffman.
Matt Federici, a senior on the UVA wrestling team, told the court he didn’t remember what happened on the night of June 30. So far, prosecutors have opted not to press charges against Federici or any of the wrestlers involved.
“[H]e told me the man on the ground had punched his little brother in the side of the face,” Young stated. “Jason said it infuriated him, so he struck the man now lying on the ground. …Jason also said some of the other wrestlers had been kicking and hitting him as well.”
“It was a team matter that was handled within,” says UVA’s head wrestling coach Steve Garland. Both Hoffmans pressed charges against a few of the wrestlers, including Federici, but on October 25, the same day Jason was officially charged with a felony, Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Claude Worrell opted not to proceed with the charges against the wrestlers for lack of evidence.
“We’ve not dismissed them,” says Worrell. “It doesn’t mean it won’t come back.”
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