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Pacers assault cases stemming from Palace brawl reassigned

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. (AP) _ The misdemeanor assault cases against five Indiana Pacers players involved in a brawl with fans at a Detroit Pistons game have been reassigned among several judges.

Rochester Hills District Judge Lisa Asadoorian was initially assigned to all the cases. But the cases were reassigned after Oakland County Circuit Judge Fred Mester agreed with arguments from lawyers for the Pacers players and ruled last month that assigning the cases en masse was improper.

The cases were reassigned Wednesday among the district court's three judges using a blind draw, court administrator Linda Hammerstein said Friday.

Asadoorian will remain in charge of Anthony Johnson's case, while David Harrison's case was assigned to Judge Nancy Carniak. Ron Artest, Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson will all appear before Judge Julie Nicholson.

The players' trials had been scheduled to begin Aug. 1, starting with Artest. But now that the cases have been reassigned, the players' next court dates will not be set until Monday, Hammerstein said.

The Nov. 19 brawl at The Palace of Auburn Hills started after Pistons center Ben Wallace shoved Artest following a hard foul. After they were separated, Artest was doused with a beverage, rushed into the stands and began beating a man he thought had thrown the drink. Some of his teammates joined him in the stands and also clashed with fans on the court.

The players and several fans awaiting trial are charged with misdemeanor assault and battery. They face a maximum penalty of 93 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. The fans' trials were schedule to start this month but have been delayed by appeals.

One man, Bryant Jackson of Genesee County's Mundy Township, was charged with a felony. He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to two years probation in May.
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