The Full Story of Joey Porter’s Incident at The Flats

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By Nick Frost, Staff Writer

Pittsburgh Steelers Linebackers Coach Joey Porter was charged with aggravated assault involving a police officer, simple assault, resisting arrest, defiant trespass, summary disorderly conduct and summary public drunkenness. These charges have been drastically reduced as the more severe charges (aggravated assault involving a police officer, simple assault, resisting arrest, and defiant trespass) were dropped by District Attorney Stephen Zappala after reviewing video surveillance of the incident.

According to a police report, on January 8, 2016, at 9:30 p.m., Officer Paul Abel — who was cleared of an off-duty assault in the Southside from 2008[1] — worked security for Mario’s South Side Saloon as a city-approved, off-duty detail in a full Pittsburgh Police uniform.[2] Another off-duty officer, Officer Gary Messer, alerted Abel about an incident a block away at The Flats where a doorman was “being threatened by a Pittsburgh Steeler.”[3]

Abel notified the police dispatch and responded to the incident, where he observed a large muscular black male, later identified as Joey Porter, standing over a doorman, later identified as Jon Neskow.[4] Abel reported that Porter was yelling at Neskow and “clearly attempting to bully his way into the establishment.” Neskow was also heard saying that Porter was not going to be let in because the last time Porter was there, he threatened to kill Neskow.[5]

It was then reported that Porter lunged at Neskow, grasping him, and lifting him up.[6] Abel, as well as some of Porter’s friends, grabbed him and brought him back away from Neskow. Porter dropped him off, and it was then that a disputed group of facts emerged.[7]

Porter claimed he never touched Abel, refuting the officer’s version of events in the criminal complaint.[8] Abel reported that Porter grabbed hold of the officer’s wrists, and the grasp was so strong, Abel could not pull them free from Porter.[9] Porter then walked away from the incident, and Abel followed — asking Porter to stop moving and place his hands behind his back. According to the report, Porter continued to walk away while refusing the orders verbally when he said, “No! No! I didn’t do anything!”[10] Assisting officers eventually arrived after Porter gave himself up to Abel and a large crowd had formed.[11]

Porter was then taken to Allegheny County Jail and charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, resisting arrest, public drunkenness, and terroristic threats, per the Pittsburgh Police Department. The following morning, he posted $25,000 bail and was released.[12]

Beth Pittinger, executive director of the Citizen Police Review Board, said that there was going to be an investigation into overcharging for this case.”[13] But days after the incident, District Attorney Stephen Zappala dropped the most serious charges of aggravated assault involving a police officer, simple assault, resisting arrest, and defiant trespass.[14]

“Today our office was able to view surveillance video showing multiple angles of the events that led to the arrest of Steelers coach Joey Porter,” Zappala said in a written statement. “Following that review, it is the position of the office that the only charges supported by the video are summary disorderly conduct and summary public drunkenness.”[15]

Bob Swartzwelder, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge 1, found it “incredible” that the charges were reduced prior to the preliminary hearing taking place.[16] He alluded to the contributing factors of Porter’s position on the Steelers, as well as the prior history of the officer as to reasons why this may have occurred.[17] Swartzwelder also added, “I hope every other criminal defendant is given such expedient treatment.”[18]

Porter said in a team statement via ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, “I regret that I was involved in an incident that could have been a distraction to our team,” Porter said. “Most importantly, I regret that I touched the police officer and I sincerely apologize for that action. Thankfully, no one was injured.”[19]





[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.



[10] Id.

[11] Id.





[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.


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