Coleman charged with a felony in firecracker case


Los Angeles authorities pitched a felony charge at Mets star Vince Coleman yesterday in the firecracker-tossing incident outside Dodger Stadium 12 days ago that left three persons injured.

The charge was far more severe than the misdemeanor that had been expected because Coleman is alleged to have thrown the equivalent of a quarter-stick of dynamite, said Bill Hodgman, a spokesman for the Los Angeles district attorney's office.

But Coleman, 31, was charged only with one felony count of unlawful possession on an explosive device. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison and $10,000 in fines.

He is expected to surrender to L.A. authorities early next week.

Coleman, who was in Montreal last night with the team, did not comment directly on the charges. But Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz read a statement from him:

"I take full responsibility for a very foolish act for which I am suffering greatly. It was never my intent to hurt anyone. My main concern is for those injured."

Mets vice president Gerry Hunsicker appeared to be distancing the team from the troubled outfielder and hinted that Coleman's days with the Mets could be numbered.

"It only involved the New York Mets because he is an employee of the Mets," Hunsicker said. "In large measure, this is Vince Coleman's problem."

Coleman's lawyer, Robert Shapiro, said he will not contest the charges and wants to compensate the three fans injured.

"He did not throw a bomb into a crowd," said Shapiro. "He dropped it out the window of a car into a private parking lot where the Dodgers were signing autographs. This must be put into perspective."

L.A. Fire Department investigator Dean Cathey said the explosive was much stronger than a firecracker. In fact, said Cathey, it was similar to an M-100, a military explosive used to simulate mines and grenades.

Hodgman said prosecutors chose to file a felony charge rather than a misdemeanor because of the strength of the explosive and the injuries.

Coleman also is facing a civil suit brought by the attorney representing 2 1/2 -year-old Amanda Santos of Los Angeles, who suffered an eye injury and burns to her left cheek.

Marshall Savoy, 11, of Los Angeles and Cindy Mayhew, 33, of Covina, Calif., also were hurt by the blast, but have not joined in the suit.

Coleman and teammate Bobby Bonilla were riding in Los Angeles outfielder Eric Davis' Jeep when Coleman tossed a firecracker out a window near a group of fans following a Mets-Dodgers game, according to witnesses and Davis.

The other players have not been charged.

Davis told reporters after word of the incident first surfaced that Coleman tossed the firecracker as a "prank" and that they all laughed about it afterward.

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