Victim accuses sucker punching New York Rangers fan of instigating trouble


Rangers fan, 29, who sucker-punched Tampa Bay fan in the head at Madison Square Garden was ‘looking for a fight and hunting anyone wearing Lightning jersey’, victim claims

  • James Anastasio, 29, was arrested on Thursday for the attack at Madison Square Garden 
  • The second victim in the incident said that Anastasio and another man featured in the viral video of the attack were the instigators of the trouble
  • Anastasio’s lawyer had said that his client was outnumbered and had tried to diffuse the situation 
  • The suspect’s father said that there is ‘nothing to defend’ about his son’s actions 
  • Anastasio has been charged with assault, disorderly conduct, and harassment in Manhattan Criminal Court
  • He is also banned from the Garden, home to both the Rangers and the NBA’s New York Knicks, for life 
  • Rangers lost 3-1 and were eliminated two days later following another defeat in Tampa
  • Incident at the Garden comes as New York City crime jumps 40% in 2022 compared to last year 

One of the victims of the sucker punching incident that occurred at the world’s most famous arena on Thursday night says that the suspect and his friend were the instigators of the trouble. 

Staten Island man James Anastasio, 29, was identified by authorities as the man seen in a viral video launching an unprovoked attack against a Lightning fan after the playoff game, which New York lost.

In an interview with the New York Post, the 37-year-old victim who tried to intervene following the original punch said that it’s ‘laughable’ to suggest that Anastasio is also a victim. 

The Good Samaritan said that he was coming out of a luxury suite when he saw Anastasio and a pal attempting start fights with anyone wearing a Tampa jersey ‘well before that incident went down.’

That victim said that the man seen in the video walking ahead of Anastasio with a t-shirt in his pocket was an ‘instigator.’

James Anastasio is shown in court on Friday night after being arrested for brutally sucker-punching a rival fan at the New York Rangers game on Thursday

James Anastasio is shown in court on Friday night after being arrested for brutally sucker-punching a rival fan at the New York Rangers game on Thursday 

The suspect has been released on bond and is just back in court on June 29

The suspect has been released on bond and is just back in court on June 29

He said that the man who was on the receiving end of the sucker punch was also hit by a beer can. That man ‘did nothing wrong,’ according to the other victim. 

He continued: ‘What you saw on the video is exactly how they acted for five straight minutes up until that point. From me seeing them, I’m sure they were wild the whole time. This was something in my mind that was premeditated.’

When asked about Anastasio’s lawyer, Jason Goldman’s, claims that the suspect attempted to diffuse the situation, the other victim called that sentiment: ‘Laughable.’

Goldman said: ‘We believe that Garden surveillance will confirm the events immediately prior to the short, viral clip captured on cellphone camera. James repeatedly tried to defuse and deescalate the situation, one where he was immensely outnumbered and ultimately threatened by a group of highly intoxicated individuals.’

 The suspect’s attorney continued: ‘While he is anxious for the rest of his story to be revealed, he also trusts and respects the Court process. We are confident that James will be vindicated once all the facts come to light.’

After pleading not guilty in Manhattan Criminal Court on Friday night, Anastasio was freed on supervised release. According to the Post, Anastasio told a reporter on Saturday: ‘I’m good. I’m good.’ 

While his father, also named James Anastasio, told the Post that his son ‘didn’t know what happened. Maybe you should call the other guy and ask him that. What do you think about that? Maybe you should ask him what he said to provoke somebody to do that?’

Anastasio told cops following his arrest that he feared he would go viral after being caught on camera, saying: ‘Oh f**k, this may be on the internet.’   

He was arrested late on Thursday night and has made his first court appearance, wearing the same red Rangers shirt and grey sweatpants from the previous night. 

Anastasio will return to court on June 29. 

James Anastasio, 29, was identified by authorities as the man (left) seen in a viral video launching an unprovoked attack against a Lightning fan after Thursday's playoff game

James Anastasio, 29, was identified by authorities as the man (left) seen in a viral video launching an unprovoked attack against a Lightning fan after Thursday's playoff game

The viral video shows Anastasio in red turning to punch the Lightning fan in blue as they made their way out of Madison Square Garden on Thursday 

The Lightning fan was knocked out cold but reportedly refused medical at the scene

The Lightning fan was knocked out cold but reportedly refused medical at the scene

The Lightning fan was knocked out cold but reportedly refused medical attention at the scene after he regained consciousness 

It’s unclear exactly what prompted the Anastasio to snap. Video shows the pair walking down the concourse at Madison Square Garden after the Lightning defeated the Rangers. 

The Lightning fan appeared to be chanting something to taunt the rival fans. Anastasio was walking out of the venue with a friend when he turned around and punched him. 

He then fled the scene as dozens of worried fans surrounded the victim. In the video, one can be heard saying: ‘He’s dead.’ 

 According to a tweet from Center Ice Hockey, the victim is a lifelong Tampa fan named Alex. 

The team’s CEO Steve Griggs has reached out to Alex and promised to send him a ‘bunch of playoff swag.’

The brother, who does not want to be named, told NBC: ‘We were just trying to get out of there like everyone else and then, all of a sudden, a beer was thrown at us, and me and my brother kind of separated in that second.

‘The next thing I know, I look over, I hear a thud on the ground and it’s my brother laying there. 

‘The thud. You can hear it in the video. I’ll never get that sound out of my head. My brother’s head hitting the ground.’ 

The victim was declined medical attention after regaining consciousness. He and his brother flew back home to Florida on Friday morning.

A witness, Corey Brill, told WTSP that Alex was disorientated after being hit. Brill told him: ‘I was like, ‘I don’t know you, I feel I need to tell you, you need to press charges, you were just assaulted.’  

Anastasio’s father earlier told The New York Post last night that he couldn’t defend his son’s actions. 

Anastasio, shown last night in court, was still wearing his Rangers shirt and sweatpants from Thursday's game

Anastasio, shown last night in court, was still wearing his Rangers shirt and sweatpants from Thursday’s game 

Anastasio is seen arriving at New York City Criminal Court after the unprovoked attack

Anastasio is seen arriving at New York City Criminal Court after the unprovoked attack 

‘Sometimes choices in our lives have consequences. There’s nothing to defend. It is what it is. We’ll wait for him to come home, we’ll pick him up, and everything’s OK. Tomorrow’s a new day.’

The suspect lives along Salamander Court in Staten Island’s Charleston’s neighborhood.  

The suspect’s landlord told NBC New York that Anastasio ‘didn’t seem violent’ and that he was shocked by the video.  The landlord said in a separate interview with the Post that someone must have ‘p****d off’ the suspect.

Anastasio’s attorney Jason Goldman earlier told DailyMail.com in a statement: ‘We are in the very beginning stages of gathering and learning all the facts.’ 

‘For now, we want to assure James is released back to his family in a timely manner, then will turn our attention to defending him in court,’ he added. 

Management at the Garden issued a statement on Friday saying that the ‘assailant’ would be banned from the venue for life, without naming Anastasio.

‘Last night, an abhorrent assault took place against a Tampa Bay fan at the conclusion of the game — followed by a second assault against an individual who bravely intervened,’ the statement said.

‘All guests — no matter what team they support — should feel safe and respected in The Garden,’ the venue added.

The Garden management said that the assaulted fan had been provided with medical care and would get ongoing support from its guest services team.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Rangers fight during the third period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden

The Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Rangers fight during the third period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden

Thursday’s game was Game 5 of the NHL Eastern Conference finals, and the Lightning beat the Rangers 3-1. 

Ondrej Palat’s tip-in snapped a tie with 1:50 remaining in regulation after a New York turnover.

Tampa Bay secured their third straight trip to the Stanley Cup final on Saturday night, with a 2-1 victory over the Rangers.

The Lightning were 6-1 at home in the postseason while the Rangers head into their sixth elimination game with a 2-7 road mark in the playoffs.

Tensions were obviously running high on the ice at Thursday’s game, which erupted into a brawl between players after the final horn.

Players on both teams dropped gloves after Lighting star Nikita Kucherov flung a meaningless shot off Rangers defenseman Adam Fox. 

Coming off a third consecutive loss and now facing elimination in Saturday’s Game 6, Fox took exception and retaliated by slashing the Russian-born winger. 

Kucherov was naturally displeased and within a moment, several melees broke out simultaneously around the ice.

The main event featured Lightning captain Steven Stamkos and Rangers star Alexis Lafreniere – a pair of former first-overall draft picks.

The incident at the Garden comes as New York City crime remains high. Overall crime is up almost 40 percent in 2022 compared to the same period last year.

Every violent crime, except murder and shootings are up in the Big Apple with felony assault up 19 percent, burglary up 32 percent, and robbery up 39 percent. 

Random attacks in New York City are also on the rise. On May 25, a 61-year-old Brooklyn man was killed when he was sucker punched by an attacker as he walked home

Random attacks in New York City are also on the rise. On May 25, a 61-year-old Brooklyn man was killed when he was sucker punched by an attacker as he walked home 

Random attacks in New York City are also on the rise. On May 25, a 61-year-old Brooklyn man was killed when he was sucker punched by an attacker as he walked home. 

In a video of the attack released by the NYPD, Victor Vega is seen walking alongside two men before the attack. After being senselessly punched, he is seen falling on his back.

One of the two attackers, who are still on the run, is seen rifling through Vega’s pockets, removing something f and then passing it to his accomplice. 

The pair are then seen casually walking away as Vega lies lifeless in the street. 

Police have ruled his death a homicide and continue to search for the two suspects. 

Every violent crime, except murder, is also up in the Big Apple with felony assault, burglary, and robbery up significantly at 19, 32, and 39 percent, respectively.

 Every violent crime, except murder, is also up in the Big Apple with felony assault, burglary, and robbery up significantly at 19, 32, and 39 percent, respectively.

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