A record company executive who police said obstructed crowd control at Roosevelt Field mall during an album signing that drew 3,000 people Friday was charged with assault Saturday, after police said his failure to send out a Twitter message to disperse the crowd resulted in an officer receiving minor injuries.
James A. Roppo, 44, of Hoboken, N.J., had been charged Friday with endangering the welfare of a child, obstruction of governmental administration, reckless endangerment and criminal nuisance, all misdemeanors.
Five people suffered minor injuries at the mall Friday when an estimated 3,000 girls and their parents lined up to see recording artist Justin Bieber sign albums. By 2:30 p.m., the crowd had grown unruly and aggressive, with pushing and shoving, police said.
Roppo was released after posting $50,000 bail. He appeared in court Saturday morning with his attorney, Scott Leemon, of Manhattan, before Judge Anthony Paradiso.
"We feel Mr. Roppo is here being singled out," Leemon said outside of First District Court in Hempstead. "He had nothing to do with the injuries that occurred. Mr. Roppo has absolute zero liability."
Roppo's next court appearance was scheduled for Dec. 9.
The assault charged stemmed from Roppo's "reckless behavior" that resulted in one police officer suffering a minor injury while trying to control the crowd, police said.
Police said that Roppo, senior vice president of Island Def Jam Records, hindered crowd control by not cooperating when police requested that he send a Twitter message asking the crowd to leave.
Diane Peress, assistant district attorney in Nassau County, said that Roppo created a "very dangerous situation" by failing to help police disperse the unruly crowd.
"Young people were being pressed up against the glass," Peress said. "The crowd continued to grow out of control."
Roppo was at the mall Friday when a police inspector asked the event organizer to call it off when the crowd became unruly. But Roppo refused, Peress said.
People outside the store on the mall's upper level pressed against a second-story balcony railing so hard that it was bent, the prosecutor said.
There was the possibility that kids could have fallen from the balcony or the rail could have collapsed, and the kids could have toppled to the ground floor, Peress said.
"It's a miracle more kids and more people weren't injured," Peress said, adding that the investigation is ongoing.
Jenny Rudolph, 13, of Rockville Centre, said she was on the top level of the garage "and everyone was pushing and shoving to get into the mall. We couldn't even move."
- With Lauren Cioffi