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Soccer fan sentenced to 14 weeks for punching player at game

March 11, 2019
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A fan is removed after attacking Aston Villa's Jack Grealish, right, on the pitch during the Sky Bet Championship soccer match at St Andrew's Trillion Trophy Stadium, Birmingham, England, Sunday March 10, 2019. (Nick Potts/PA via AP)
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A fan is removed after attacking Aston Villa's Jack Grealish, right, on the pitch during the Sky Bet Championship soccer match at St Andrew's Trillion Trophy Stadium, Birmingham, England, Sunday March 10, 2019. (Nick Potts/PA via AP)

BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) — A Birmingham supporter was sentenced to 14 weeks in jail Monday after admitting to assaulting Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish during a match between two of English soccer’s biggest rivals.

In the League Championship game on Sunday, Paul Mitchell ran onto the field and landed a punch on the player’s face.

“Mr. Grealish felt a punch to the right side of his lower jaw and he realized he has been assaulted by a Blues supporter,” prosecutor Jonathan Purser said. “Footage showed him taking a running swing and jumping on the back of Mr. Grealish and throwing that punch. It appears to have caused no physical injuries, fortunately.”

Grealish later scored to give Villa a 1-0 victory over Birmingham. The 27-year-old Mitchell entered his guilty plea at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court.

Mitchell’s lawyer told the hearing that his client’s family had to leave their home “through fear that they would suffer serious harm or even death” following online comments about the incident.

“My client doesn’t seek to justify his behavior at all,” lawyer Vaughn Whistance said. “He has brought shame upon himself and his family ... and the football club he has supported since he was a child.

“He apologizes to Aston Villa and in particular Jack Grealish for his terrible behavior. He cannot explain what came over him. He is certainly remorseful today.”

In a separate incident, a man was charged in London for going on the Emirates Stadium field and pushing Manchester United defender Chris Smalling. Gary Cooper appeared to be trying to join Arsenal players in celebrating a goal in the Premier League game on Sunday.

Cooper was charged with “common assault and going on to the playing area” and will appear at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court on March 26, police said.

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