John Vieira, a 59-year-old from Rhode Island, entered the plea in Wrentham District Court. He and Justin Mitchell, a 39-year-old also from Rhode Island, are facing charges of assault and battery and disorderly conduct for an altercation that resulted in the death of Dale Mooney, a 53-year-old from New Hampshire.
The event occurred at Gillette Stadium on Sept. 17, when the Dolphins were visiting the Patriots in NFL Week 2. Mooney was allegedly punched by a man wearing a Dolphins jersey and was pronounced dead at the hospital. He was described as a longtime Patriots season ticket holder and lifelong fan.
The Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office ruled the death a homicide but failed to establish a basis to prosecute that charge. That was determined based on evidence including autopsy results and video from the stadium.
Before the not guilty pleaa from Vieira, a district attorney revealed the cause of death.
“Probable cardiac dysrhythmia in a person with severe hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease during a physical altercation,” the report read.
The criminal complaints against Vieira and Mitchell were filed last month.
The Dolphins defeated the Patriots in the game 24-17. It was the second victory of a season-opening three-game winning streak for Miami.
It went on the start the season 5-1 and wound up finishing with an 11-6 record. The Dolphins’ season ended this past Saturday with a 26-7 loss at the Kansas City Chiefs in the first round of the AFC playoffs. The contest at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium was one of the coldest in NFL history, and some players reportedly suffered frostbite.
The Dolphins lost their final two games of the regular season, including the finale to the Buffalo Bills, which prevented them from winning the AFC East and having a home playoff game. Miami also lost in the first round of the playoffs last season.
In the aftermath, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa pointed to communication issues as a primary reason for the disappointing defeat. Miami now will enter next season still searching for its first playoff victory since the 2000 NFL campaign.