Video of the October 9 firetruck wetdown in Sea Bright that preceded the alleged assault of a firefighter by two others.
By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
A dramatic seven-minute video was the centerpiece of opening day in court as two Sea Bright volunteer firefighters went on trial Thursday for an alleged assault on a third.
Courtroom onlookers also heard testimony from two witnesses one of them a Monmouth Beach cop who filled in dialogue on the silent video and gave blow-by-blow accounts of the fight that followed a wet-down celebration for a new firetruck last October 9.
The hearing in the case, moved to Little Silver municipal court to avoid a conflict of interest in Sea Bright, was the first since the altercation, which left firefighter Justin Hughes with injuries that have kept him off the force since. Brothers Steven Lang and Peter Lang IV have had expected appointments to line officer positions in the department held up because of the pending assault charges against them.
The video, captured by a surveillance camera in the firehouse bar and lounge area, had no audio track, but offered a visual perspective of what went down at the firehouse bar that night.
It started and ended quickly.
The video showed Hughes, 28, getting into a brief shoving match at the bar with fellow firefighter Steven Lang, 25, at 8:41 p.m., before somebody in a green hooded sweatshirt steps in to break it up.
“Then things seem to calm down,” said municipal prosecutor Mike Halfacre.
Then, according to witness Aaron Rock, a volunteer with the department, Steven Lang said to Hughes, “Let’s go outside and we can talk about this,” and Lang, he said, left the station.
That’s when Lang’s brother, Peter, 33, approached Hughes and said something to the effect of, “If you have a problem with my brother, you have a problem with me,” Rock told the court.
“At that point he lunged at Justin,” said Rock, who is also a patrolman in Monmouth Beach police.
Which is what the video showed. Steven Lang had by then at 8:43 p.m. re-entered the bar and joined in what Halfacre called a “scrum” in a corner of the lounge, and “Steven Lang came into view and the two Lang brothers essentially have Hughes surrounded.”
“Things got more heated, obviously,” said Halfacre, who is also mayor of Fair Haven.
Steven Lang then put Hughes in a headlock, which is when Rock tried to break up the fight. Another firefighter, Patrick “P.J.” Covert, broke Steven Lang away from Hughes, and almost simultaneously Peter Lang took Hughes down to the ground, and said, “Did you have enough or do you want me to choke you out?” Covert said.
Neither Covert nor Rock heard any words exchanged among the Langs and Hughes leading to the fight, they testified.
The Lang brothers then left the firehouse.
Hughes, who went to Monmouth Medical Center for injuries, filed a report with the police the following day. Sea Bright Detective Sergeant Richard Jacobs, after taking the report and viewing the surveillance tape, charged each Lang with simple assault. Steven Lang, in turn, filed a complaint against Hughes, and he was issued a summons for disorderly conduct and harassment.
The hearing was adjourned due to Judge James Berube Jr.’s scheduling conflict. The next hearing is tentatively scheduled for 11 a.m. June 16 in Little Silver municipal court.