PHILADELPHIA – A 21-year-old man who intentionally vomited on a spectator and his 11-year-old daughter at a Philadelphia Phillies game was sentenced Friday to up to three months in jail and community service, which the judge suggested be fulfilled by cleaning ballpark toilets and trash.
Matthew Clemmens, of Cherry Hill, N.J., was taken into custody immediately after Family Court Judge Kevin Dougherty imposed the sentence, and several family members burst into sobs as he was handcuffed.
The spectator Clemmens vomited on and punched, Michael Vangelo, of Easton, said his daughter Mikayla is still traumatized.
"What really bothers me about the incident is that Mikayla refuses to talk about it," he testified.
The family has received offers from the team and complete strangers for tickets to future games, but "she does not want to go," said Vangelo, an Easton police captain. He said he also has not returned to Citizens Bank Park since the assault.
Clemmens pleaded guilty in May to charges of assault, harassment and disorderly conduct. He admitted he stuck his fingers down his throat and vomited on Vangelo and Mikayla at a Phillies-Nationals game on April 14.
Clemmens was sentenced to one to three months in jail, two years of probation and 50 hours of community service, which Dougherty suggested be served at Citizens Bank Park. The maximum penalty was two years in jail. Public defender Richard Hark asked for probation.
Clemmens sobbed as he read from a statement expressing remorse for his actions.
"I'm working every day to clear this black mark from me and my family," Clemmens said. "Give me the opportunity to show you who I am and not who I was that one afternoon."
His parents, acquaintances and grandfather — who took a 27-hour train ride from Florida to attend the sentencing — testified that he was a good person who volunteers in his community and made one uncharacteristically bad mistake.
Dougherty said he believed the defendant's apology was "feigned."
"Superficially you present yourself one way, but outside of the home you present yourself another way," Dougherty said, calling Clemmens a "mean-spirited and vulgar" young man who humiliated his family and tarnished the city's reputation.
Clemmens and his friend were cursing and heckling the Vangelo family from the first inning. Vangelo's 15-year-old daughter asked them to stop the profanity around her younger sister, prompting more heckling and cursing. The family was doused with beer when they rose to cheer a Phillies home run, and Vangelo eventually complained to security that Clemmens' friend was spitting, which hit his younger daughter's jacket and seat.
After the friend was ejected, Clemmens was sitting alone when he answered his cell phone and said: "I need to do what I need to do. I'm going to get sick," prosecutors said.
He then put his fingers down his throat and "projectile vomited," Vangelo said. He also punched Vangelo several times, causing his ear to bleed, before being tackled by other spectators and arrested.
Salvatore DeAngelis, manager of Phillies ballpark security, testified the team received thousands of calls, e-mails and letters from people asking "how something like this could happen."
"Initially there was some concern that it was an unsafe place to attend a game," he said.
Dougherty also ordered Clemmens to pay Vangelo $315, the cost of the five tickets for him and his family to attend the game. Vangelo said he intended to donate the money to the Easton Police Athletic League.
Neither Clemmens' family nor Vangelo would comment after the hearing. His daughters were not in court. District Attorney Patrick Doyle said the victims were satisfied with the sentence.