On Tuesday, former judge and legal analyst Andrew Napolitano joined radio host Joey Clark on News Talk 93.1 to discuss potential challenges to adjudicating Saturday's Montgomery Riverfront brawl.

On Saturday evening, Montgomery Police Department (MPD) officers responded to a disturbance on Coosa Street. They witnessed a large group of people in a fistfight on the dock of the Alabama River.

Witnesses told the press the fight escalated from a disagreement about a pontoon boat blocking the dock where the Harriott II riverboat was attempting to park. Several witnesses posted videos to social media. 

It appears the brawl involved both males and females. In one of the videos, police can be seen handcuffing participants on both sides of the conflict.

When asked, Napolitano explained how a case involving so many people is tried in the legal system in the first place.

“It’s really the task of the government, which is the police and their investigators,” Napolitano said. “Today, using cellphone data … which is extraordinarily helpful and telling whether people are taking selfies or making videos, the data is just showing where people moved and how they moved about. So, the government has the task of determining who are the defendants and against whom can they prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt and presenting that to the court.”

“[T]his is done in a series of steps,” he continued. “Sometimes, you find two or three people that were involved, and you cut a deal with them. 'You tell us who else you know was involved, and we’ll go easy on you …,' so the government has a variety of techniques available to it, which the courts have upheld, which will allow it to gather evidence, but these cases are very difficult to try.”

Napolitano said the difficulty with cases like this is that the courts have to choose whether to try each defendant individually or all at once. 

“The government wants to try them separately because if you try them all at once, the government points fingers at everybody else, and the jury’s confused and throws up their hands. If you try them separately, and you have enough evidence to do this over and over again … you can get a series of convictions, and then after a few convictions … you’ll then start to get guilty pleas as the others realize ‘I’ve got to cut a deal because look at what just happened to my buddy.”

After the brawl, several mainstream media outlets interjected a racial narrative as the pontoon crew was predominantly white and the riverboat crew was predominantly black. One corporate press host even suggested the incident was somehow connected to former President Donald Trump’s recent appearance in Montgomery. 

The captain of the Harriott II told Clark earlier this week that his crew has had problems with the group on the pontoon boat before. He dismissed the possibility that there was a racial component to the fight. 

On Tuesday afternoon, Montgomery Police chief Darryl Albert made repeated statements that there is no evidence of a racial motive. 

Three assault suspects have been arrested in connection with the incident: Richard Roberts of Orange Beach, Allen Todd of Selma and Zachary Chase Shipman of Selma. All three are members of the pontoon crew.

Shipman is the owner of a Selma mini-mart and received backlash in the form of numerous negative Yelp reviews after taking to Facebook to recuse himself. In the Facebook post, which appears to have since been taken down, Shipman claimed he tried to get away from the brawl and did not condone what happened.

According to voting records, Shipman is a documented Democratic Party voter

Clark also asked the former judge how judges handle cases that attract so much media attention. 

“Ignorance of the media,” Napolitano answered. “In state court, you really don’t get to decide for yourself if you want cameras in the courtroom. It would depend on the policy of the state and of the newspapers and of the television companies … In the federal court, there are no cameras, period … When the cameras are there, they’re so small, and they’re so silent, you forget that they are there. You’re not going to see the same preening for reelection that Judge Lance Ito was accused of during the O.J. trial.”

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email will.blakely@1819news.com or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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