Geno's Steaks employee Tony Chestnut limped toward the witness stand yesterday.
Sounding nervous, sometimes speaking in a low voice, he testified that a Chester County teen slammed him onto the concrete twice outside the South Philadelphia steak shop in December.
Chestnut, 32, suffered a broken collarbone, smashed cheekbone, hearing loss, a small hole on his head, two broken ribs and one or two fractured spinal bones.
After a preliminary hearing, Municipal Court Judge Marsha Neifield yesterday held Kevin Bacci, 19, of Devon, and his friend, Michael Morrison, now 22, of Malvern, for trial on all charges, including attempted murder and conspiracy. Both are out on bail.
Chestnut said that at 6:28 a.m. on Dec. 27, he was power-washing the sidewalk outside the famous cheesesteak eatery at 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue, when he heard two men spewing profanities at a female employee and at Geno's owner, Joey Vento.
Then he went to the front of the eatery, where he saw Bacci and Morrison "cursing, hollering."
Chestnut said he asked them: "What the f---'s going on?"
He said he and Bacci began yelling at each other. Then Bacci, who is taller than Chestnut, "got more of his chest in my face," Chestnut said. "I pushed him away, twice, maybe three times.
"He was antagonizing me to make a physical altercation," Chestnut said under questioning by prosecutor Dawn Holtz. "I was antagonizing him. I did a 'flinch job' - when you put your hand toward somebody in their immediate area. I went to his face, 'Back the f--- up.' "
Chestnut said the two of them were "flinching" each other - putting their hands toward each other's faces - when Chestnut said he "finally had enough."
With his back turned, he said he "felt [Bacci's] arms go around me. . . . Then I got really close and personal with the concrete I had been cleaning for years."
Chestnut explained that Bacci had used a wrestling move, called a belly-to-back suplex, and had grabbed him from behind, picked him up "above Bacci's head," then "slammed me face first into the concrete."
Bacci then "picked me back up from the ground position" and "slammed me" onto the concrete again, this time "on my back," Chestnut said. "From there, I just felt like I couldn't see anything."
He lost consciousness until he awoke, Vento at his side.
In a moment that turned to gentle laughter during the hearing, Holtz asked Chestnut: "How many people were outside Pat's, I mean, Geno's Steaks?"
"Ha, ha, ha," Chestnut laughed, pointing his finger at Holtz for mistakenly naming Pat's - Geno's competitor across the street. "I'm glad my boss ain't here. He'd be mad about that."
Vento, who was waiting to testify, was outside the courtroom.
Under cross-examination, Bacci's attorney, Brian McMonagle, suggested: "Mr. Chestnut, you've been in a lot of fights in your life?"
"That's irrelevant," Chestnut replied before the prosecutor's objection was sustained.
"Are you denying under oath today you hit this kid?" McMonagle asked, referring to his client.
"If I did, I don't remember," Chestnut replied.
McMonagle later asked: "But you don't remember punching him twice in the face?"
"Like you said, I've been in a lot of fights previously. You'd see damage to his face [if I had punched him]," Chestnut replied, implying that he did not punch Bacci since Bacci was not injured.
Vento testified yesterday that he first heard Bacci and Morrison speaking loudly to the female worker, "making a lot of derogatory remarks about our product."
He said that when Chestnut and Bacci were arguing, Morrison came toward him. Vento said he "pushed him [Morrison] away" - in an "easy, real easy" manner.
After Bacci threw Chestnut twice to the ground, Vento said he saw blood flowing from Chestnut, whose "eyes were rolling."
"I thought he was dead," Vento said.
Bacci and Morrison "did some chanting" and slapped their hands in the air, Vento said.
Morrison also gave Chestnut "a swift kick," Vento testified.
Michael J. McGovern, Morrison's attorney, suggested that Chestnut was Vento's security guard. He asked Vento if "at some point, did you tell Tony Chestnut to kick their a--?"
"No," Vento said, adding that Chestnut did not work security. *