Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins said Wednesday that the Braintree man accused of throwing a water bottle at Kyrie Irving Sunday night as he was leaving the court at TD Garden will be fully prosecuted and must face consequences for what she described as an act of workplace violence.
Rollins, who has chosen not to prosecute some lower-level crimes to assure resources are focused on serious felonies, said Cole Buckley’s alleged actions and personal history warrant a felony charge although Irving, a Brooklyn Nets star and former Boston Celtic, was not struck by the Dasani water bottle. Buckley, 21, was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
“This is different. We believe that this individual engaged in an act of unprovoked workplace violence. ... This might have been a playoff game [but] Kyrie Irving was at work,” she told reporters after Buckley’s brief appearance in Boston Municipal Court.
Rollins linked the incident to a series of violent acts against basketball players during the ongoing NBA playoffs, which fans are attending in large numbers for the first time since before the pandemic.
“The last thing I want to say is, there is a growing, disturbing trend in the NBA in particular,” she said. “It is not lost on me that the NBA is overwhelmingly Black men where we have fans who are overwhelmingly white men who believe that they can engage in this type of behavior. It is not appropriate, and it certainly is not going to happen here in Suffolk County.”
Buckley’s lawyer, Stephen Neyman, filed a motion to have the case diverted from the court system before Buckley was formally arraigned so it would leave no criminal record. But Rollins’s office objected and Judge Richard Sinnott allowed the prosecution to go forward.
Buckley, a student at the University of Rhode Island, pleaded not guilty. He was released on the $500 cash bail imposed after his arrest and ordered to stay away from TD Garden. Buckley is due back in court Aug. 5.
Buckley, who wore a blue suitcoat, collared shirt, and tie in court, did not speak with reporters. Neyman did not reply to a Globe request for a response to Rollins’ comments.
When Buckley was arrested moments after allegedly throwing the bottle, he was wearing a Celtics jersey with the name of Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett, which Rollins noted in her comments about the case.
“I will go out on a limb and say KG is more aligned with Kyrie Irving than a Cole Buckley,” Rollins said. “You know Cole Buckley did not throw a bottle at a Bruins game when we lost in overtime ... Thank you, Cole Buckley, for not using a racial slur when he did this, but it’s not lost on me that he did this in a sport that is overwhelmingly Black.”
Two other men were arrested during or after Sunday’s game. William F. Leite, 35, of Oxford, pleaded not guilty to charges of assault and battery on a police officer, trespassing, resisting arrest, and disturbing the peace. He was released on $100 cash bail set when he was taken into custody at TD Garden.
Rollins said she considered the alleged attack another example of violence in the workplace.
“Police officers who were assaulted ... they were at work,” she said. “We do not condone that behavior.”
Leite allegedly challenged a number of Brooklyn Nets fans to fight and refused to leave the arena as ordered by Garden security and a Boston police officer. He allegedly told police “I paid $40 for this ticket so I am not leaving” and told the officer “you are not strong enough to arrest me,’' according to reports filed in court.
Leite, described in police reports as 6 foot 1 and 235 pounds, was taken into custody after struggling with security and police officers.
In court on Wednesday, Leite’s attorney argued that he was “a good man [having] a bad day” when he was taken into custody. Leite lives with his 10-year-old daughter and is a construction worker, his attorney said.
“This was a night that he came into town to go the Garden to see a game, had too many, and made some bad decisions,” the attorney said.
Leite declined to comment and his lawyer, who would not provide his name, did not respond to questions from reporters.
A third man, Michael Oliver, 23, was also arraigned on a charge of assault and battery on a police officer and other offenses. He was ejected from the stadium for unruly behavior and became involved in an argument with security staff outside, prosecutors said. Oliver, who lives in Gloucester, repeatedly refused a police officer’s orders to leave the area, and allegedly assaulted the officer when he tried to arrest him.