Randy Blythe returns to U.S. as trial adjourns
Lamb of God front man faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty
Posted: February 13, 2013
Randy Blythe, 41, who leads the heavy-metal band Lamb of God, appeared Feb. 4 for the start of his trial at Prague Municipal Court.
Lamb of God front man Randy Blythe has flown home to the United States after the adjournment of his manslaughter trial but has reiterated his desire to come back to the Czech Republic and clear his name.
Although he can now be tried in absentia having given his testimony, the singer's defense lawyer Tomáš Gřivna told The Prague Post his client had promised to return to Prague next month for the trial's continuation.
Blythe is accused of throwing a fan off the stage during a concert at Prague's Club Abaton in 2010. That fan, 19-year-old Daniel N., later died as a result of the injuries sustained from his fall.
If found guilty of the crime, Blythe faces up to 10 years in prison. Daniel N.'s family is also demanding some 10 million Kč ($530,000/395,000 euros) in damages, although this sum can be negotiated between the two parties.
Presiding judge Tomáš Kubovec took the decision to halt proceedings due to the absence of several key witnesses, including a girl who was allegedly with Daniel N. at the time of the incident and two criminal psychologists. They will all testify when the court reconvenes March 4, along with possible new witnesses whom judges will look to call upon based on fresh evidence produced at the hearing.
The court has already heard from Blythe himself, a number of people who attended the concert and several medical experts. As we await the trial's resumption, The Prague Post casts an eye over the main points so far.
Randy Blythe's version of events
Flanked by photographers and his legal team, Blythe arrived at Prague Municipal Court Feb. 4 in a resolute mood. After being formally indicted by State Attorney Vladimír Mužík, the 41-year-old took to the stand to defend himself against the charge.
Addressing the court through an interpreter, Blythe spoke calmly and purposefully. He recalled how he was worried about security arrangements at the venue, telling the three judges there didn't appear to be any barriers to prevent fans from approaching him.
"From the beginning, I knew it was going to be a difficult show for my band," he said, adding later, "[The audience] certainly had no problem getting onto the stage."
Blythe said the concert went like any other, apart from the fact that several fans tried to interfere with the performance. Crucially, he admitted to pushing one man off the stage, named as Milan Pořádek, but denied ever coming into contact with Daniel N.
The American told the court Pořádek evaded bouncers on at least three occasions, despite repeated warnings his presence was unwelcome. The second time, Blythe confessed to forcing Pořádek to the ground, shouting in his ear, "No more onstage," adding, "I did not strike him or choke him, but I did kneel on top of him."
Describing the fan's behavior as being "drunk or crazy," Blythe dismissed accusations he gestured for the audience to join Lamb of God as they performed. "We never allow people on stage other than band members," he said.
Probed by Mužík on his history of substance abuse and drinking, Blythe said he had never taken drugs and gave up alcohol in 2010, but after the concert in question. The singer also said his eyesight was bad but that he didn't wear glasses during performances because the look would be inappropriate.
"The defense will likely argue the concert was in chaos, highlight how security staff failed to protect the accused and point to other factors that cast doubt over a guilty verdict," said Martin Holub, a lawyer at Šafra & Partners.
"The defense may also try to show the accused cooperated with criminal authorities, and there's also the possibility to reach a settlement with the family of the deceased, which would both be considered as mitigating conditions," he added.
What concertgoers saw
Three friends of Daniel N. painted a picture of a young man who enjoyed heavy-metal concerts and who had been looking forward to meeting Lamb of God. The first friend to testify, Jan Jebavý, remembered seeing anger on Blythe's face, telling judges the front man was "physically aggressive."
"[Daniel N.] climbed onto the stage, he turned toward the audience, and he was thrown down into the audience," Jebavý said. "Blythe pushed him from behind with both hands; I'm 100 percent sure about it."
All of the friends agreed with that part of the story, but then appeared to contradict each other on some of the finer details of the incident. One, Ondřej Vlach, said Blythe ran from the dressing room to push Daniel N. off "in an unnecessarily aggressive manner," while the others said the American had been singing at the time.
They were all questioned about the way in which Daniel N. came off the stage and whether he twisted during his fall, leading to suggestions from the defense that Daniel N. may have been trying to stage dive.
The friends said the concert continued when Blythe asked if the fallen fan was OK and got a positive answer. After the show, though, they said Daniel N. complained he felt sick. He drank some water and then vomited, at which point they rang an ambulance to take him to the hospital.
Next, the court heard from Pořádek's friends. They all seemed to back up Blythe's version of events and some recalled an incident happening toward the end of the concert but nobody could be sure it involved Daniel N.
Indeed, this was a common theme throughout the proceedings. With the trial taking place nearly three years after the fateful concert, many witnesses struggled to provide a clear picture of the night. When one man became hesitant during his testimony, Kubovec reminded him, "Don't guess. Say what you remember."
"The Czech Criminal Procedure Code sets out the principle of free assessment of evidence, which means the judge must review the evidence according to his conviction based on careful consideration of all the circumstances of the case," Holub said.
"The principle of in dubo pro reo ['when in doubt, for the accused'] applies, but contradictory evidence does not prevent a guilty verdict when Mr. Blythe's behavior otherwise proves a criminal offense has been committed."
Meanwhile, other concertgoers unconnected to Daniel N. or Pořádek said they saw someone being thrown off the stage but couldn't identify that person as Daniel N. when they were shown his photograph.
On the last day of the trial before its postponement, one final witness, Lukáš Havlena, addressed the court. He came forward after reading some of the other testimonies in the Czech media. Havlena said he didn't like how the three friends of Daniel N. had described the situation, telling judges Blythe was not aggressive.
However, perhaps more valuable to the defense was Pořádek's testimony. He called himself an "active member of the audience" and recognized he was causing problems. Pořádek corroborated Blythe's story, saying he was neither punched nor strangled as some witnesses had indicated.
Furthermore, Pořádek admitted he was "pretty drunk" and that his behavior was inappropriate. "Because of the way I acted, [Blythe] was right to throw me off," he said.
Other evidence to consider
The court heard how Lamb of God had sent a list of security demands to the concert venue, notably that barriers should be placed 1.5 meters from the stage. Kubovec pointed out this wasn't the case. Testifying Feb. 6, promoter Tomáš Fiala told the court the band hadn't detailed any concerns to him, either before or after the gig.
Fiala also expressed his surprise at how sober Blythe seemed after the concert, saying he talked to him personally and there were no signs the singer was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Speaking on behalf of the security company, a representative said it wasn't his firm's responsibility to decide how many staff are present at the venue (two bouncers had been guarding the stage), and that it is up to organizers to tell him their specific needs. He added he had no information about the request to position barriers away from the stage.
Michal Dogoši, an expert medical witness, said Daniel N.'s cause of death was pneumonia resulting from a blow to the brainstem, a part of the brain that sits on top of the spinal cord. He revealed the mortality rate for this kind of injury is around 40 percent and that doctors couldn't have done more to save the patient.
In addition, an ophthalmologist, called for by the defense, confirmed Blythe was short-sighted and couldn't see distant objects. The ophthalmologist said the combined effect of strobe lighting and smoke onstage meant the American would "only have been able to recognize silhouettes" from one to two meters away.
When the trial concludes, the judges will reach one of three main verdicts: guilty of manslaughter, guilty of negligence (a lesser charge carrying a suspended sentence) or not guilty. Whatever the verdict, though, the losing side is likely to appeal, meaning the trial could easily last for several more months.
Jonathan Crane can be reached at
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