ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – It took less than 30 minutes for the jury to decide the fate of the “falling fan” at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Rob Hopkins, the man who fell from the upper deck, could face up to a year in jail after being found guilty of second degree reckless endangerment and third degree assault.
“We’re obviously disappointed with the verdict,” said Hopkins’ attorney, Patrick Brown. “It was an accident. It was something that he should not have done, obviously. But at the time he was doing it, he just didn’t perceive the risk. We’ll have to decide whether or not we want to look into an appeal.”
Before the jury began deliberating around 5 p.m. on Tuesday, they heard from Hopkins and testimony from a neurologist, who treated Marc Bratcher, the victim in this case.
Hopkins admitted to drinking vodka and iced tea before entering the Buffalo Bills game. He says he bought two beers before sitting down for the first quarter. He testified that he didn’t think he was going to hurt anyone while sliding down the banister, and only his sister warned him about it. He said no one from Bills security, ushers or anyone else said anything about it.
Tuesday afternoon, the jury saw video of Rob Hopkins falling from the upper deck. The video was taken from surveillance cameras at the Ralph and shows the fall clearly. You see the crowd focused on the field and then in an instant there was a big commotion surrounding the man who fell and the person hurt.
“It’s great to have video evidence of a crime taking place. It makes it a lot easier as a prosecutor,” Assistant District Attorney Michael Drmacich, who prosecuted the case, told reporters after the verdict was read. “The video speaks for itself, and I think that the jury came to the same conclusion.”
Dr. Loubert Suddaby testified he treated Mark Bratcher for “trauma to the spine.” He said he saw Bratcher five times and diagnosed him with disc herniation in the spine. Based on the video, he testified, the man falling caused this problem.
Suddaby testified that had Hopkins fallen two inches more forward, landing on the neck, pushing it forward, Bratcher could have died or could have become a quadriplegic, but determined there was no fracture in Bratcher’s spine.
The doctor said the video clearly demonstrates the speed Hopkins was traveling when he fell on Bratcher.
He said “The further the fall, the faster you’ll go and that you gain speed when falling.”
Prosecutors wanted to prove Bratcher was hit with a significant force.
Last week, a retired Erie County Sheriff’s deputy testified Hopkins had slid down the railing several times before the fall.