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Assemblyman pushes tougher sentencing for game violence

August 23, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
State Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) hopes to end the recent rash of violence at California sports events by stiffening sentences for fans who get into fights.

Gatto enjoyed going to Dodger games as a kid while his dad sold peanuts in the stands. He wants California kids to have the same safe experience at all professional games.

Two men were shot, another was beaten unconscious in a restroom and many fights broke out at Saturday's NFL football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders at San Francisco's Candlestick Park.

That comes months after two men beat up San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow on opening day outside Dodger Stadium, putting him in the hospital with brain damage.

The incidents make many fans think twice about attending a game.

"Yeah, I'm really concerned. I don't really think I want to take any of my kids over here since my own safety is not guaranteed," said sports fan Adeshoji Adeyinka.

"I can't remember a time when there was this much violence in sporting events," said state Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-L.A.).

Gatto is fed up and is introducing legislation that enhances the sentences of those convicted of fighting at games.

"Going to a baseball, football game is part of being a kid, and I just don't think parents should live in fear of the thugs at these sporting events," said Gatto.

But California's severely overcrowded prison system can't handle keeping inmates for longer sentences. In fact, California is under orders from the U.S. Supreme Court to relieve prison overcrowding.

"The problem with sentence enhancements is the offender doesn't know about it when they're committing the crime. So it does nothing to actually prevent the crime from happening," said Matt Gray, Taxpayers for Improving Public Safety.

Some sports fans we spoke with say tougher sentences aren't going to change the atmosphere at games.

"As soon as they get out, they're going to go and beat up somebody else, so no, I don't think it's going to make a difference," said sports fan Michael Schaefer.

"I think you're going to have fools wherever you have the alcohol, and they're going to react accordingly, and make it bad for the rest of us that like to go," said sports fan Rick Uhlman.

"There are a lot of things out there worth fighting for, but the color of someone's jersey is not one of them," said Gatto. "It's just so silly and wrong to get into a fight at a ball game. And I think the sentencing should reflect that."

Gatto's bill also requires each professional team in California to contribute $50,000 a year to a state fund that would be used to offer rewards for information leading to the arrest of suspects.


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