A scheduled motion hearing today for the three defendants in the 2009 beating death of a man outside Citizens Bank Park turned into the trio pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter and conspiracy.

In pleading guilty, Charles Bowers, James Groves and Francis Kirchner admitted their roles in the death of David Sale, 22, in Parking Lot K on July 25, 2009. Sale was part of a small group attending the Phillies game for a bachelor party, while the three defendants were among 60 or so people from Mo's Tavern in Fishtown.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Dec. 20, and the three could face a maximum of 40 years in prison, although the sentencing range for the charges is generally between three years and four and a half years.

Last month, Judge Shelley Robins New declared a mistrial based on prosecutorial misconduct and called for a re-trial. Defense attorneys filed a motion claiming double jeopardy, which New was scheduled to hear today. The hearing was delayed as the defendants agreed to their plea deals, which were similar to the offer from prosecutors before the trial.

 

Bowers, appearing in a striped shirt, tie and slacks, apologized to Sale's family and friends.

"I'd just like to say I'm very sorry for any actions of mine that caused you to lose a family member. I can't imagine how hard it's been, not just for you but for everybody," he said.

Kirchner, who was accused of first-degree murder for delivering the fatal kick to Sale's head, appeared very emotional during the hearing and had to be asked numerous times to keep his voice up by the court clerk.

New also continued a gag order for the attorneys, which prohibits them from talking to the media until after sentencing.

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