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Guilty pleas in a sickening act at the ballpark

A Cherry Hill man pleaded guilty Tuesday to several charges stemming from an incident in which he vomited toward a man and his two daughters at a Phillies game.

A Cherry Hill man pleaded guilty Tuesday to several charges stemming from an incident in which he vomited toward a man and his two daughters at a Phillies game.

The case, which some dubbed "Pukemon," gained national attention, with news media pointing to the event as another example of out-of-control Philadelphia sports fans.

Matthew Clemmens, 21, pleaded guilty to simple assault, a second-degree misdemeanor; disorderly conduct, a third-degree misdemeanor; and harassment, a summary offense. Other charges, including recklessly endangering another person, were dismissed.

The tall, burly, soft-spoken defendant, who told the court he was a high school graduate, hesitated before pleading guilty to one of the charges, and later Common Pleas Court Judge Kevin Dougherty asked why.

Clemmens said that it was "just the way that everyone said what happened that I didn't agree with."

Soon, though, he formally agreed to a prosecution account that described a series of offensive acts, including sticking a finger down his throat and then vomiting toward Michael Vangelo, an off-duty police captain from Easton, Pa., and his daughters, ages 11 and 15, at the April 14 game against the Washington Nationals.

Clemmens and a male friend, accompanied by two female friends, were drinking, spilling beer, continually using profanities, and heckling the Vangelos, said Assistant District Attorney Patrick Doyle, specifying the profanities at the judge's request.

The friend kept spitting toward the ground, and after spit got on the hood of a garment of one of the girls, Vangelo asked the man to stop. The older daughter also asked both men to stop cursing. After Vangelo complained to security, the man was removed from Citizens Bank Park.

Clemmens and the women left, but Clemmens later returned alone, Doyle said.

After answering his cell phone, Clemmens stood and declared, "I need to do what I need to do. I'm going to get sick," according to the statement.

That's when he stuck a finger down his throat and vomited, most of it striking Vangelo, but some of it landing in front of the seats in which the Vangelos were sitting.

The father, covered with vomit, pushed Clemmens, who then threw at least one punch, cutting Vangelo's ear and face, Doyle said.

Clemmens was subdued by other fans and arrested.

As Clemmens was being escorted away by security, he was thrusting his middle fingers in the air, "screaming expletives," Doyle said.

The judge asked Clemmens if the account was accurate.

"Yes, Your Honor," said Clemmens, whose widely published mug shot after his arrest showed him with a black eye.

The account did not specify a threat to vomit directly on either of the girls, as had been alleged by Vangelo.

Doyle later declined to elaborate about the incident, but did say the guilty pleas pleased the Vangelos, who were not at court Tuesday but plan to attend the July 30 sentencing hearing.

The maximum penalty for second-degree assault charge is two years in jail, but guidelines call for probation for first offenders, Doyle said.

Outside the courthouse, defense attorney Richard Hark said Clemmens "was 100 percent remorseful and will continue to be so at the time of the sentencing."

"He completely accepted responsibility for his behavior," Hark said.

"It's probable he consumed too much alcohol," Hark said. ". . . It's not a justification, just an explanation."

He said the behavior was uncharacteristic of his client, who became of legal drinking age in March.

Clemmens, the oldest of three children, works for his father's trucking company, the defendant's uncle told the Philadelphia Daily News.

The defendant and family members with him at court referred all questions to their attorney.