By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
A Sea Isle City man accused of punching Philadelphia TV personality Bob Kelly in the face during a supposed TikTok stunt pleaded not guilty during his arraignment Monday and intends to seek admission to a pretrial intervention program.
Flanked by his parents, Patrick Iannone appeared in Cape May County Superior Court for his arraignment on an aggravated assault charge stemming from a July 30 attack at the Oar House Pub in Sea Isle that rendered Kelly unconscious.
Iannone, 21, allegedly poured beer on Kelly and then punched him in the face while the Fox 29 “Good Day Philadelphia” reporter was emceeing a weekend party at the Oar House.
In comments on Fox 29 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 reportedly was punched so hard that he briefly lost consciousness and was taken to the hospital for treatment of a badly swollen left eye.
Iannone was taken into custody by Sea Isle police and charged with aggravated assault, an attempt to cause significant bodily injury. He was released on a summons after being charged.
During a brief arraignment hearing Monday, Iannone’s defense attorney John Tumelty entered a not guilty plea for Iannone and told Superior Court Judge Christine Smith that he will file papers seeking permission to have Iannone admitted into a pretrial intervention program.
PTI is a diversion program that permits criminal defendants to avoid prosecution if they successfully complete a probationary period under close supervision. It also can result in the expungement of their criminal record.
Dressed in a navy blue blazer and tie, Iannone briefly stood beside Tumelty at the defense table when Tumelty entered a not guilty plea for Iannone in front of Smith.
Iannone sat in the courtroom next to his father, Joseph Iannone, and his mother, Rosemary Milano. Joseph Iannone is a local real estate agent, while Milano is a retired Sea Isle police captain.
Iannone and his parents declined to comment after the arraignment. Speaking in an interview with SeaIsleNews.com, Tumelty described Patrick Iannone as feeling “extremely remorseful and contrite.”
“I think it’s going to come through with everything we submit to PTI. There are a lot of mitigating factors on Patrick’s side,” Tumelty said.
Tumelty declined to reveal the mitigating factors during the interview, but noted that they will be disclosed when Iannone appears in court on Dec. 4 for a PTI hearing.
Iannone’s admission into the PTI program is far from guaranteed. Ultimately, it will be up to the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office to decide whether to approve it, Tumelty explained.
As part of the application process, Kelly will be consulted to see whether he would support or oppose having Iannone enrolled in the PTI program, Tumelty said.
“It doesn’t require his consent, but his feelings are one of the factors PTI must consider,” Tumelty said of Kelly’s involvement.
At this point, there has been no communication between Iannone and Kelly, Tumelty said.
Kelly could not be reached for comment Monday after the arraignment hearing.
Kelly regularly hosts a happy hour dance party at the Oar House on Wednesdays. He stepped in as host of the Wednesday night dance parties following the death in January of Philadelphia radio personality and music promoter Jerry Blavat, who had been a fixture at the Oar House for three years.
Oar House owner Jimmy Bennett and Kelly have collaborated for fundraising events at the bar and restaurant to benefit “Kelly’s Kidz, a nonprofit charity that supports St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia.
“Bob is a great guy. He does a great job for Kelly’s Kidz, and all the work that he does is for Kelly’s Kidz,” Bennett said in comments shortly after Kelly was assaulted.
Kelly founded Kelly’s Kidz to collect toys, pajamas and donations to benefit children in pediatric hospitals. He started the nonprofit when his son, Austin, was an infant and had to be hospitalized after having an allergic reaction to baby formula.
“You know, he’s a man who’s out there always doing charity work, and for something like this to happen to him is kind of discouraging. We are hopeful that everything will turn out fine,” Bennett said of Kelly fully recovering from the assault.