Man involved in fight outside The Ralph gives public statement
GRAND FORKS, N.D. - In the wake of Monday's announcement that prosecutors won't be charging him with aggravated assault, Peter Chwialkowski publicly acknowledged that he hit Jason Smith outside the Ralph Engelstad Arena and that it was unfortunat...
GRAND FORKS, N.D. - In the wake of Monday's announcement that prosecutors won't be charging him with aggravated assault, Peter Chwialkowski publicly acknowledged that he hit Jason Smith outside the Ralph Engelstad Arena and that it was unfortunate Smith was injured in the altercation.
Chwialkowski, 28, of Oslo, Minn., was arrested after the Oct. 16 University of North Dakota-Minnesota men's hockey game on suspicion he punched Smith, who hit his head on the ground and suffered a fractured skull that required the insertion of plates and 65 screws.
Smith, of Grand Forks, underwent emergency surgery at Altru Hospital in Grand Forks and spent about three weeks there. The 34-year-old is now recuperating at home as he undergoes therapy, his CaringBridge Web site says.
"The support and prayers he received from his friends and family, including ours, is paying off," Chwialkowski said in written statement issued Tuesday.
Chwialkowski's attorney, Jim Hovey, said his client is pulling for Smith. "First and foremost, he wants Jason to recover," Hovey said. "It's a tragic situation that could have been avoided but wasn't."
Hovey lauded the Grand Forks County state's attorney for not rushing to charge his client. "They did a good job of thoroughly rooting out the facts," he said.
Hovey discouraged Chwialkowski from making a public statement about the altercation until now. Not speaking up for himself was difficult for Chwialkowski. "It was a very grueling seven weeks to sit back and watch my tarnishment," Chwialkowski wrote.
Chwialkowski's statement says he punched Smith after Smith hit him in the upper arms and the left side of his head. Hovey said Smith's punch gave Chwialkowski a shiner on his left cheek.
"He was struck and then was moved down to the right, and then when he came back up, he made one swing and connected" his right fist to Smith's head, Hovey said.
The statement says Chwialkowski "stepped between a verbal altercation in attempts to prevent a physical one," referring to a confrontation between his friend and Smith's brother.
Hovey was asked if he expected the incident to garner as much attention as it did.
"Whenever the Sioux and the Gophers are playing each other, it's hard to say something isn't expected," Hovey said.
"It shouldn't have gotten blown up the way it did," he said, but acknowledged, "It's a good seller."
Though Chwialkowski has been cleared of criminal wrongdoing, the possibility of a civil suit remains. Hovey said such a suit has not been filed, but that Smith has retained attorney David Bossart of Fargo.
Hovey said he would not be representing Chwialkowski in any potential civil matters.
Bossart declined to comment Tuesday. Messages left at the home of Smith's parents have not been returned.
Archie Ingersoll is a writer for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.