May 28, 2008 --
In this corner: the grunting, whooping, hollering hedge-fund manager on a stationary bike.
In the opposite corner: the stockbroker two bikes down - who couldn't take it anymore.
The bell rings today on Round One in Manhattan Criminal Court in the wacky case of two beefy Wall Streeters who got into a spin-class smackdown at an Upper East Side Equinox gym.
The two combatants will face each other today - in front of a jury - for the first time since last August, when the berserk broker admittedly tilted the grunting hedge-fund manager's Schwinn exercise bike up off its front wheel and into a wall out of sheer frustration.
The resulting herniated disc sent the fund manager, Stuart Sugarman, 48, to a hospital for more than a week - complete with surgery and metal screws in his neck, prosecutors said yesterday during opening statements in the misdemeanor assault trial.
He'll testify about his ordeal at the East 85th Street gym today, prosecutors promised.
Meanwhile, broker Christopher Carter, 44, will watch from the defense table. He's countering that the fund manager instigated everything with his big mouth, then exaggerated his injuries in hopes of suing the broker to within an inch of his portfolio. He faces a year in jail.
"You will hear how Mr. Sugarman was boorish, was obnoxious, used obscenities, gave my client the finger," defense lawyer Michael Farkas told the jury yesterday. "You will hear how he provoked this altercation," the lawyer said. Sugarman continued exercising for another 40 minutes after his so-called injury, he told jurors.
Sugarman doesn't deny he was the loudest in the spin class, lead prosecutor Brigid Harrington said in her own opening statement. He bellowed "Yeah!" at the top of his lungs, she said.
"Stuart Sugarman was pretty annoying," the prosecutor admitted.
Carter was duly annoyed. The broker asked the class instructor to have Sugarman quiet down, the prosecutor said. The instructor shrugged.
"It's spin class," the instructor told Carter. "If this is the way this guy wants to psych himself up for class, I'm not going to stop him." That's when Carter "decided to take matters into his own hands," the prosecutor told jurors.
The broker started shouting, "Shut up!" The howling hedge fund manager responded, "If you don't like it, you can leave the class!"
"This defendant, Christopher Carter, got angrier and angrier," the prosecutor said. Finally, he grabbed Sugarman's bike by the handlebars "and caused the bike to go backwards into that wall," leaving a hole in the Sheetrock.
"As New Yorkers, you've all been annoyed by someone," the prosecutor said. "Someone who's being rude.
"What's not normal . . . is to punish them by assaulting them."
The spin classes I've seen in my gym has loud pounding music and the instructor uses a mike to speak over the music. Maybe they should have done that so that the only person that could hear the screamer was himself?
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