Service Employees International Union members Elston McCowan and Perry Molens had been accused of misdemeanor assault in the August, 2009 tussle with button salesman Kenneth Gladney. The fight caught national attention at a time when there was rampant speculation the union had been dispatched to tamp down opposition to President Obama’s health care reform.
Jurors heard conflicting testimony in the two-day trial over who actually started the fight, and they viewed video tape showing the end and aftermath of the brawl — but no video showed who threw the first punch.
Gladney, who took the witness stand wearing a neck brace, testified that McCowan had started the fight by cursing him for displaying an offensive President Obama button, and then slapping Gladney’s hand. Gladney testified that Molens then joined in the attack against him.
McCowan testified that Gladney was the first to turn what had been a verbal argument into a physical fight. Molens testified that he came upon a fight in progress and pulled Gladney off his fellow union member McCowan.
McCowan and Molens were represented by high-profile defense attorney Paul D’ Agrosa, whose legal fees, McCowan said, were paid by the union. During his closing argument, D’ Agrosa questioned whether Gladney was wearing a neck brace to the trial for sympathy, saying it reminded him of a “Brady Bunch” episode.
Gladney had testified that he underwent recent neck surgery not related to the August 2009 fight. Later, outside the court, Gladney told a reporter he belived his neck problems were the result of “blunt trauma” he suffered in the fight.