Corner brawl between Hoffmans and UVA wrestlers nets two misdemeanor pleas

Corner brawl between Hoffmans and UVA wrestlers nets two misdemeanor pleas

This time yesterday Jason Hoffman was sitting behind a table in Charlottesville’s circuit court listening to two attorneys discuss what happened to him one night last summer. First was prosecutor Claude Worrell, who had charged him with a felony for punching UVA wrestler Matthew Federici on June 30. In Worrell’s description of the night, too much drinking had led to a drunken brawl that started in the Biltmore but spilled out onto the streets. There was apparently more than one altercation that only ended when the 22-year-old blindsided the senior wrestler. “How do you be fair in criminalizing unlawful conduct?” he asked Judge Edward Hogshire. As a result, Worrell proposed a reduced charge of disorderly conduct, which is only a misdemeanor. “This seems like an appropriate resolution to a large mess.”

Then came Hoffman’s attorney to rebut much of what Worrell said. As he told it, Hoffman was jumped by a mob of wrestlers gone berserk who beat him and his younger brother Sam. When Hoffman hit one of the wrestlers in the head he was only acting in self defense. “We think this compromise is good,” Steve Rosenfield told Hogshire anyway. The morning had originally been planned for a jury trial but a last-minute plea offer negated what might have been a parade of witnesses, all with different versions of the night’s events.

"There is something in each of the witnesses for everybody," Worrell said, wrapping up after Rosenfield finished. Then the plea was accepted by Hogshire who admonished Hoffman in a fatherly fashion. "I hope there’s some maturation going on," he said, giving a 30-day suspended sentence.

With that, Worrell, Rosenfield, and Hoffman (with dad, mom, and brother in tow) walked the couple blocks to General District Court to resolve more charges relating to the same night and same fight. Eight months after the debacle, the police finally launched an investigation into exactly what happened between the Hoffmans and the wrestlers. Despite all the tales of abuse, only three misdemeanors were handed out, two to wrestlers and another for Hoffman. In General District Court, the latter’s was dropped on account of his circuit court plea. One of the wrestler’s was also dropped while freshman Daniel Gonsor received the same exact plea as Hoffman, even down to the suspended sentence.

The tit-for-tat pleas don’t necessarily mean the end of the so-called "mess." Worrell said an investigation is still ongoing to determine if more charges should be filed. "I don’t know how to account for the many witnesses that saw Jason and Sam attacked by a mob," said Rosenfield afterwards. Jason’s father Gary says he and his family will cooperate with the investigation and continue to press for mob charges to be filed against the UVA wrestlers.

UVA wrestler Daniel Gonsor plead guilty yesterday to giving Jason Hoffman a shiner on June 30, 2007, the same night Hoffman hit another wrestler.