PHILADELPHIA - The lawyer for an Iraq war veteran charged in a Christmas night shooting in a movie theatre says his client fired in self-defence.

James Cialella of Philadelphia is charged with firing a shot that broke the arm of Woffard Lomax Jr. inside a movie theatre during a screening of the film "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." A judge on Wednesday ordered the 29-year-old Cialella held for trial on aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and related charges.

The judge tossed out an attempted murder charge over a prosecutor's objections.

Municipal Court Judge Craig M. Washington lowered Cialella's bond from $350,000 to $50,000, but ordered him to remain under house arrest if he is released.

It was not immediately clear whether he had posted bail.

Lomax, 31, told the judge he was at the movie with his girlfriend and her three teenagers, enjoying the film and laughing, when a man in front of him - not Cialella - told him to quiet down.

"We can't laugh?" Lomax recalled asking.

A second man threw popcorn at the family, and a brawl ensued. Lomax said he was fighting with the first man when the second man pulled out a gun and fired, striking him in the left arm.

A defence lawyer argued that Cialella was being choked and punched as he tried to break up the fight and fired in self-defence.

"He's a marksman," lawyer Greg Pagano said. "If he wanted to shoot to kill, he would have."

Cialella spent five months in Iraq with the army before being honourably discharged in September, Pagano said.

Lomax did not elaborate on his testimony after the hearing.

Police have said Cialella brought a .38-calibre handgun in his waistband to the South Philadelphia megaplex.


Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer,

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