One clear thought goes through my head the night of April 30 as I watch three beef cakes in Gibson's security shirts encircle a scared, scrawny kid pinned against a light pole. And that thought is This is a bunch of bullshit.
Five minutes earlier, Chris Costedio, 23, had been bouncing around on the dance floor inside the Tempe club, where Girls Against Boys was firing off loud volleys of organ-laced punk rock. Gibson's security strictly enforced a no-moshing policy during the GVSB concert (for some reason, the crowd at a Reverend Horton Heat show a few days later was allowed to slam with abandon).
Several fans at the GVSB show, including Costedio, tried to start up a pit about four songs into the band's set, but were quickly shut down by Gibson's security guard Mark Bjorem, who warned them not to try it again. A short time later, Costedio started to pogo around anyway, knocking his roommate down in the process. At that point, Bjorem, who had returned to his guard post on the perimeter of the crowd, purposefully turned his baseball cap backward, came up fast behind Costedio and, without warning, put him in a strong half nelson/wrist lock and dragged him out of the club, the would-be mosher's face grimacing in pain.
By the time I caught up with the situation outside, Bjorem had Costedio pressed up to the pole, his face mashed against the metal. Well within Costedio's personal space stood two other Gibson's security guards, including head of security Sean Newton. Worried they were about to start making squeal-like-a-piggy demands, I walked over and innocently asked a fourth trooper observing the action what all the ruckus was about. He told me only that Costedio had been ejected from the club for moshing.
During my conversation with that bouncer, I saw Bjorem's cap fly off his head out of the corner of my eye. I looked over to see Costedio get put in another arm lock, this time by Newton. Newton later testified (and Costedio admitted) that Bjorem had let Costedio go and Costedio had immediately knocked the security guard's hat off. Newton says he detained Costedio because he believed Costedio was threatening Bjorem (Costedio is five feet 11 inches and weighs 150, according to police records; Bjorem is six feet four, 295.
Now here comes the fun part. Right after Newton finally released Costedio--about ten minutes after he was originally ejected from the club--Tempe police arrived to arrest Costedio for assault. Newton told them Costedio had slapped him on the side of the head before he could get ahold of him, and his story was backed up by his fellow Gibson's enforcers and a member of T.E.A.M., a private security force contracted by Tempe to patrol downtown. Costedio denies slapping Newton. Unfortunately, I had a bad angle on the brief altercation in question--Newton had his back to me. He might have taken a slap, but I didn't see his head snap to the side from a solid hit.
When I realized Costedio was getting busted, I approached the cop and told him I thought Chris had been bullied by the security guards. The cop took my statement, and a week later Costedio called me. He said he'd been charged with misdemeanor assault and was facing a $500 fine. He'd gotten my name and number from the police report and told me to expect a subpoena.
When the court date (May 31) rolled around, I caked my armpits with topnotch deodorant to impress the judge (it didn't work, but then we got off to a bad start--I don't recommend that anyone respond in the affirmative in a court of law by snapping one's fingers and exclaiming "Gotcha") and biked over to Tempe Municipal Courthouse. I passed the time by watching Judge Michelle O'Heir-Sullivan grant a batch of protection orders then go outside to chain-smoke until Costedio's case came up on the docket.
Costedio was in bad shape from the word go. He represented himself--you get a public defender only if you're facing jail time--against a municipal prosecutor with four witnesses, one of them in patriotic camouflage (Newton, an Army specialist by day, arrived for the trial in full fatigues). The trial was quick and ugly. The prosecutor tore Costedio up with procedural objections, and the word of the defendant and his punk-rock critic/star witness didn't count for much on the scales of justice with the testimony of four buzz-cut, upstanding young men on the other side. The judge found Costedio guilty and sentenced him to time served (one night in jail, no fine).
Looking back, I see three points of concern:
First of all, I'd say whether a guy deserves to get booted from a GVSB show for moshing is highly debatable. But just for the hell of it, let's say Costedio should have been ejected. Why didn't Bjorem just walk up, tap him on the shoulder and tell him, "You're outta here, asshole. Follow me."? If the customer takes a swing or won't budge, then escalate the force. But don't wrench somebody's arm behind his back just because you have an excuse to.