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Bishop Ireton High School '96 Alexandria, Va. Bill Sofield was just a College freshman whose older brother and a friend were in town and in the mood to take him out drinking on a brisk October evening. The controversy began outside the Phi Gamma Delta, or FIJI, fraternity house at 3619 Locust Walk, where the three men were approached by University Police officer Jeff Dougherty at about 10 p.m. October 30. In later testimony, Dougherty said he approached the men for "arguing loudly," and tried to place them under arrest for disorderly conduct a few minutes later. Bill Sofield's brother Richard, a 27-year-old assistant U.S. attorney, decided to step in and speak to Dougherty about the charges, instructing the two to wait inside the fraternity house. But when other police officers arrived to back up Dougherty and Richard Sofield allowed himself to be arrested, several officers decided to go after the two others. While Bill Sofield simply waited inside the house, however, Warnell Owens, a 26-year-old friend of Richard's and former football player at Harvard University, went through the house into an alley in the back, where he was stopped by two University Police officers. Owens allegedly proceeded to repeatedly punch the two officers -- as well as two relief officers who showed up at the scene -- rendering two of them unconscious and generating a triple assist, which brought at least 50 police officers from five different forces to the scene. Police finally subdued him with nightsticks and mace, and all five ended up in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania with varying degrees of injuries. Between 20 and 30 officers then stormed the FIJI house in search of the younger Sofield, who is now 19 and a brother in the fraternity. He was arrested and, along with his brother, spent the next two nights in jail at the Philadelphia Police Department's 18th District headquarters at 55th and Pine streets, about 15 blocks west of campus. In a routine alternative for people without previous criminal records who are issued summary charges of disorderly conduct, Richard Sofield took a "Disorderly Conduct Alternative Program" in November and his record was expunged without a hearing or a trial. In a January trial at the city Criminal Justice Center, Court of Common Please Judge James Deleon acquitted Bill Sofield of the disorderly conduct charges, as well as a charge of resisting arrest. And after months of trying to bargain with prosecutors, Owens' lawyer, Paul Hetznecker, finally agreed on a September trial date. He will plead innocent to the charges, arguing that "the confrontation by the University Police was completely unnecessary and improper," according to Hetznecker, who refused to elaborate. But the events that took place inside the FIJI house -- where roughly two dozen officers from University and Philadelphia police forces retrieved Sofield after arresting his brother and finally subduing Owens -- are still disputed, and while the Sofields have made no formal allegation of brutality, a civil suit alleging that police beat Bill Sofield unnecessarily is still a definite possibility. FIJI brothers who witnessed the arrest were the first to make such an accusation against police, submitting several similar anonymous statements to the University Police the Tuesday following the incident, alleging that officers beat an acquiescent Sofield unconscious inside the house before arresting him. And Sofield's lawyer Walter Phillips, who took pictures of Sofield's black eyes when he was released from prison, has repeatedly presented the pictures as evidence that police conduct was overly harsh. But an internal University Police investigation in December concluded that officers were justified in striking Sofield because he was flailing his arms and resisting arrest. Sources close to the Sofield family told The Daily Pennsylvanian then that their first priority was to "deal with the criminal charges" before considering a civil suit. But although Sofield's acquittal cleared the first obstacle toward a suit, the Sofields have until November 1999 to file one, and have yet to do so.

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