June 13, 2014 / 9:39 PM / 5 years ago

Former Dodgers owner testifies in baseball fan beating case

Former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt leaves after testifying in Bryan Stow's civil trial against him in Los Angeles, California June 13, 2014. REUTERS/David McNew

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt testified on Friday that safety was a top priority at the stadium and he denied responsibility for any gaps in security that lead to the brutal beating of a baseball fan on opening day in 2011.

Bryan Stow suffered a skull fracture and brain damage when he was attacked by two men in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium following a game against their arch-rivals, the San Francisco Giants. He is seeking $35 million from the team and its former owner.

Stow, a 45-year-old former paramedic who can no longer work and requires daily medical care, claims that poor security and inadequate, 30-year-old lighting in the stadium parking lot gave his assailants the opportunity to attack him.

McCourt sold the Dodgers to a group led by former basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson in 2012 during an acrimonious divorce. He told the court during more than an hour of testimony that fan safety had been a top priority during his stewardship.

But questioned about specifics of stadium security at the time of Stow’s beating, McCourt repeatedly asserted that he was not directly involved with such matters, at one point telling the court that he did not know who was his vice president of security in March 2011.

McCourt also said that he was not involved in a decision to move away from having uniformed security at the stadium and could not recall if the parking lot lights had been upgraded during his tenure.

Asked by Stow’s attorney if he were aware that there was a 35-minute delay in security personnel responding to the attack, McCourt said such a lapse would be excusable if the officers were busy with another incident but not if they were “taking a longer coffee break, not doing what they were supposed to be doing.”

Stow’s attackers, Louie Sanchez and Marvin Norwood, pleaded guilty in February to felony charges in connection with the beating, which left Stow in a medically induced coma for months and prompted calls to address violence tied to sports rivalries.

“Like all Dodger fans I was appalled at the criminal behavior of Sanchez and Norwood and make no mistake, they’re the parties responsible for this tragic incident,” McCourt told reporters outside court following his testimony. “My thoughts and my prayers continue to go out to Mr. Stow and his family.”

Reporting by Dana Feldman; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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