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3 men sentenced in fatal Phillies ballpark attack

December 20, 2011
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PHILADELPHIA—Three men who fatally attacked a man outside a Philadelphia Phillies game in a brawl police say was sparked by a spilled drink have been sentenced to prison terms.

Francis Kirchner, Charles Bowers and James Groves each pleaded guilty in October to voluntary manslaughter and criminal conspiracy in the July 2009 death of 22-year-old David Sale Jr. outside Citizens Bank Park, where the Phillies were playing the St. Louis Cardinals.

Kirchner, 30, was sentenced Tuesday to consecutive terms totaling nine to 18 years. Bowers, 37, got consecutive terms totaling five to 10 years. Groves, 48, was sentenced to concurrent terms of two to four years.

Sale and some of his friends were at a bar attached to the Phillies stadium when they had an altercation with the defendants, authorities said. Both groups were told to leave the bar, and the confrontation escalated in the parking lot.

A trial that began in September ended in a mistrial after a prosecution witness identified Kirchner as the person who fatally kicked Sale. Defense lawyers said they weren't told the witness could identify Kirchner.

More than two dozen of the victim's relatives and friends attended Tuesday's eight-hour hearing and spoke about his loss, and many said they did not believe the sentences represented justice.

"I thought I was going to come in and get some sort of closure," Sale's father, David Sale Sr., told The Philadelphia Inquirer outside the courtroom. "I am disappointed. I am angry. I am empty."

Dozens of supporters of the defendants also crowded into the packed courtroom. All three defendants apologized to the family of the victim.

"I'd like to apologize wholeheartedly," Bowers said. "I know I have to live with the things I could have done and should have done, but, unfortunately, I made a different decision."

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