ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – The jury trial for the man charged with assault and reckless endangerment in the infamous Ralph Wilson Stadium fall will begin June 11, with the potential to extend two or possibly three days.
Robert Hopkins, 29, appeared in Orchard Park Town Court on Thursday alongside his new lawyer, Patrick Brown, who said, "it's a very serious case we think ought to be put in front of a jury." The assault and reckless endangerment charges, both misdemeanors, could carry a sentence of up to a year in jail, Brown said.
"It was an accident," Brown said. "It wasn't a crime."
Hopkins made national headlines on Nov. 17 when cameras captured him sliding on the railing at The Ralph, falling to the concourse below and toppling another fan. That fan was hospitalized with a serious neck injury.
In a letter to the victim, Hopkins said he was "truly, truly sorry" for the incident and called it "out of character" for him. He also asked the victim to "please share my apologizes with your family for the stress and worry this may have caused him."
Shortly after the fall, Hopkins lost his job at Eric Mower and Associates and has not found work since, according to Brown. Hopkins declined comment as he walked out of the court room.
"He's also cognizant of the fact that somebody was injured, and obviously recognizes that the physical injuries are greater than the loss he suffered," Brown said. "But yeah, it's affected him, sure."
The media attention on Hopkins' case also makes it a bit trickier. The popular sports blog Deadspin picked up the story after the incident, and Hopkins' recent court appearances have drawn a handful of local media to Orchard Park Town Court.
"It could be a factor obviously in the trial. We wouldn't want prospective jurors or witnesses to be influence by news accounts," Brown said. "He's certainly in the spotlight."