BY TREVOR CALERO
Daily News Editor
Published January 29, 2009
A preliminary hearing for the former University athlete who allegedly attacked a hockey player in October began yesterday morning in the Washtenaw County 15th District Court.
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Mike Milano is charged with aggravated assault and assault with intent to commit great bodily harm less than murder, a felony carrying a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Milano, a former walk-on running back, is accused of assaulting hockey player Steve Kampfer on the morning of Oct. 12 on a Church Street sidewalk near East Quad.
Three days after the incident, the football team suspended Milano indefinitely.
The hearing was adjourned after almost four hours yesterday and will resume Wednesday, Feb 4., allowing the prosecutor to prepare for an additional witness from the defense. There were also witnesses who were unavailable for yesterday’s hearing.
Judge Elizabeth Pollard Hines is expected to make a decision Wednesday on whether to order Milano to stand trial on the assault charges.
Three people took the stand yesterday morning, including Kampfer, his long-time friend Mike Anderson who was with him the night of the incident, and Engineering senior Neil Patel, the prosecution’s primary witness.
Milano did not testify during yesterday’s hearing.
Kampfer testified for over an hour during the hearing. He said he went to meet his ex-girlfriend the night of the incident because someone was “creeping her out” at Rick’s American Café.
Kampfer testified that when he arrived at the Church Street bar he found his ex-girlfriend standing outside on the sidewalk with a few friends. Milano, who Kampfer said he had never met before that night, was also outside with two of his friends.
Kampfer said that he and his ex-girlfriend got into an argument. They then walked across the street to hold a private conversation.
Kampfer testified that he grabbed her arm to try and calm her down after she got upset. Milano then crossed the street with two of his friends and confronted him, Kampfer said.
“He was angry, upset,” Kampfer said, “with the intention of arguing.”
Anderson, Kampfer’s life-long friend who was visiting from out of town at the time of the incident, took the stand next.
He testified that Kampfer and Milano got into a “heated argument” in an alley near Pizza House. Anderson, who had crossed the street following Milano and his two friends, said he grabbed Kampfer’s arm and urged him to “get the hell out of here.”
Kampfer testified that he and Anderson left the alley and started walking toward his house on South Forest.
As the two were leaving, Kampfer said that he and Milano continued to shout profanities and insults at one another until they reached Willard Street, but he doesn’t remember what exactly was said.
Kampfer said that the last thing he can remember is being picked up as he was walking away from Milano.
“The last thing I remember is two guys pushed Mike (Anderson) and I away,” Kampfer said. “Then I was up in the air.”
Kampfer said the next thing he remembers is waking up in the hospital and talking to Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson at 10 a.m. on Sunday morning.
Kampfer sustained back and neck injuries and suffered from a fractured skull. He was released from the hospital on Oct. 13 and was required to wear a neck brace until Nov 19. Kampfer’s first game back on the ice was at the Great Lakes Invitational on Dec. 27.
In the testimonies heard yesterday, there were some differences of opinion surrounding the events leading up to Kampfer being forced to the ground.
Kampfer testified that he was completely surprised, having no idea that Milano and his friends were following them, and that he continued to face forward until he was lifted into the air. Kampfer also testified that he and Milano stopped shouting at one another once he and Anderson got to Willard Street.
However, Anderson testified that Kampfer and Milano continued to harass one another, with Kampfer getting in the “so called last word.” He said he then heard footsteps coming from behind, and that he and Kampfer both glanced backwards to see Milano and his friends running toward them.
Patel, the final witness called to the stand, said he was walking home on Church Street the night of the incident. He said he saw two groups of guys — a group of three following a group of two — but didn’t notice anything suspicious at first.
Patel testified that he saw one guy from the group of three pick up someone from the group of two and throw him into the ground.
Patel’s testimony differs from Anderson’s in the fact that Patel said the individual who was picked up was thrown over the shoulder of the guy from the group of three, and landed on the top of his head.
Anderson testified, however, that Milano wrapped his arms around Kampfer’s midsection and forcefully threw him into the ground, landing on top of him, with Kampfer’s upper back and the back of his neck hitting the concrete.
Jay Milano, the defendant’s father, said in an interview with The Michigan Daily after the hearing that Kampfer has been portrayed as a victim while his son has been portrayed as a villain.
Milano’s father said Kampfer was “drunk and out of control,” and that his son used a “distinctive wrestling move” to bring Kampfer down and that he “never meant to hurt him.”
“Steve Kampfer was not an innocent victim,” Jay Milano said after the hearing. “He was the aggressor.”
Defense attorney John Shea said Milano’s actions were not unprovoked, as they have been portrayed.
— Daily Sports Editor Michael Eisenstein contributed to this report.