Record exec pleads not guilty in mall fiasco

James A. Roppo, 44, leaves First District court

James A. Roppo, 44, leaves First District court in Hempstead, after his arraignment for his arrest in the crowd control incident at Roosevelt Field Mall involving too many teens showing up for the appearance of Justine Bieber. (November 21, 2009) (Credit: Newsday/Karen Wiles Stabile)

A record company executive who police said failed to control a crowd of 3,000 at Roosevelt Field mall during a planned Justin Bieber album signing pleaded not guilty to felony assault charges Saturday.

Nassau police said James A. Roppo's failure to send out a Twitter message to disperse the hordes resulted in an officer and others receiving minor injuries.

Roppo, 44, of Hoboken, N.J., was also charged with endangering the welfare of a child, obstruction of governmental administration, reckless endangerment and criminal nuisance.

Five people suffered minor injuries at the mall Friday when an estimated 3,000 girls and their parents who were lined up to see Bieber sign autographs grew unruly and aggressive, with pushing and shoving, police said.

Roppo appeared in court Saturday with his attorney, Scott Leemon of Manhattan, before Judge Anthony Paradiso and was released on $50,000 bail. His next court appearance is Dec. 9.

"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."

"The Roosevelt Field Mall and the Nassau County Police Department were unprepared and had a complete lack of control at yesterday's event and it is incomprehensible that they will not take responsibility," Leemon said later in a statement. Nassau police said they were not notified of the event beforehand.

The assault charge stemmed from Roppo's "reckless behavior" that resulted in a minor injury to one police officer trying to control the crowd, police said.

Police said that Roppo, senior vice president for sales for Island Def Jam Records, was at the mall Friday and hindered crowd control by not cooperating when police requested that he send a Twitter message asking the crowd to leave.

Diane Peress, Nassau assistant district attorney, said that Roppo created a "very dangerous situation" by failing to help police disperse the fans gathered on a second-floor balcony.

"Young people were being pressed up against the glass," Peress said. The group pressed against a railing so hard that it was bent, she said.

People could have fallen from the balcony or the rail could have collapsed, Peress said. "It's a miracle more kids and more people weren't injured."

A legal expert said more knowledge of Roppo's involvement with the crowd would explain why he was charged if he was not personally involved in an assault. "If you don't do something, you normally can't be charged for not acting. But if you have some kind of legal duty to act, that's when you could be charged," said Robin Charlow, criminal and constitutional law professor at Hofstra University.

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