By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
The prosecutor called Patrick Iannone a “bully” who felt entitled when he sucker-punched Philadelphia TV personality Bob Kelly in the face during a charity fundraiser at a Sea Isle City bar last year.
But Iannone apologized for his actions and insisted that he has begun turning his life around after struggling with alcohol abuse and mental health issues.
Now, Iannone has been given a second chance. Appearing in a Cape May County courtroom Monday, he was sentenced to three years of probation for assaulting Kelly at the Oar House Pub on July 30.
The judge overseeing Iannone’s assault case gave him a stern warning that he had better get his substance abuse under control or else his next stop would be a prison cell.
“You need to understand, sir, that the next step for you in my court is out the back door to state prison. Do you understand that?” Superior Court Judge Christine Smith told Iannone.
“I do, your honor,” Iannone responded.
The highly publicized case took a dramatic turn in December when the 22-year-old Iannone, a member of a prominent Sea Isle family, agreed to plead guilty to assaulting the Fox 29 “Good Day Philadelphia” reporter in return for probation.
Iannone’s attorney and the prosecutor, however, disagreed over how many years of probation that Iannone should have received during his sentencing Monday.
Assistant Cape May County Prosecutor Edward Shim pushed for between three and four years, while defense attorney John Tumelty wanted a shorter term.
Shim called the assault a senseless act of “entitlement” by Iannone. He also said that Kelly felt “hurt, embarrassed and humiliated in many ways” when Iannone poured beer on him and knocked him out at the Oar House Pub while he was emceeing a fundraising event.
“He was a bully that day,” Shim said of Iannone. “He decided because he wasn’t happy, he was going to do something to somebody else. To me, those are the worst types of people in our society.”
Tumelty maintained that Iannone deserved a short sentence of probation because he is undergoing counseling for depression and alcohol abuse and has the strong support of his parents.
“He’s doing very, very well. Your honor, since this happened last summer, Patrick, I think, has come a long way. He has the support of both parents, who are present today. They’ve been with him, and they’ve been in his corner on this all along,” Tumelty said to Smith.
Iannone’s father, Joseph Iannone, is a Sea Isle real estate agent, while his mother, Rosemary Milano, is a retired Sea Isle police captain. They joined him at the hearing, but declined to comment afterward.
In sentencing Iannone to three years of probation, Smith also ordered that Iannone must continue with his alcohol treatment and submit to anger management counseling.
“You need to get your substance abuse under control,” Smith told Iannone. “Whatever that takes, whatever that’s going to look like, you need to do that. Ultimately you have to dig deep within and turn your life around, if you want to. You’re the only person who can do that.”
During the hearing, Shim and Tumelty said Iannone has had other run-ins with the law.
A month before he punched Kelly, Iannone was involved in a simple assault last summer at the Dead Dog Saloon in Sea Isle, Tumelty said. The case was handled in municipal court and ended with the charge being downgraded and Iannone paying a fine, according to Tumelty.
In March 2022, Iannone was charged with an alcohol-related offense in Knoxville, Tenn., while visiting a friend at the University of Tennessee. The charge was dismissed, Tumelty said.
Smith said that Iannone’s behavior “appears to be driven by his substance abuse.”
Iannone, though, told the judge that he is moving forward with his life with the help of his parents. He said he is now working fulltime in his family’s Sands Department Store in Sea Isle.
“I feel very confident. I am very thankful for my parents. I am 22 years old. I make my own decisions,” he said.
As part of his sentencing, Iannone has agreed to pay Kelly $5,000 in restitution to compensate him for his injuries and medical costs.
“I want to apologize to Mr. Kelly, and I’m very sorry for what I did,” Iannone said.
Kelly did not attend Iannone’s hearing Monday. In comments on “Good Day Philadelphia” a day after he was assaulted, Kelly labeled the incident a “frightening, disturbing event” apparently incited by a TikTok challenge in which people video themselves pouring beer or other liquids on celebrities.
Kelly was assaulted when he attempted to swat away the beer. He was punched so hard that he briefly lost consciousness and was taken to the hospital for treatment of a badly swollen left eye. Kelly continues to complain about having pain and vision problems.