O’Leary Tells What Happened — Another Account Disputes HimBy Ari L. Noonan @ 5:00 PM August 17, 2009
On his third day home from a week of hospitalization after being felled in a spectacular incident, City Councilman Mehaul O’Leary this afternoon gave the first public accounting of his showdown with a customer 8 days ago at his pub that led to his own severe injury and the customer’s arrest.
The Councilman is recovering from surgery on his right eye — where the vision is completely blocked, temporarily, he said — after being decked a week ago Sunday morning at closing time, allegedly by one Robert Anthony Singerman, 28 years old.
(Mr. Singerman surrendered to Culver City police last Wednesday, and he promptly was released after posting the $60,000 bail. Police say he will be charged with assault with a deadly weapon, allegedly for instigating the clash, dropping the much smaller Mr. O’Leary to the pavement with a single punch to the right side of his face, breaking numerous bones.)
In a wide-ranging interview, Mr. O’Leary said there is a history between the two that goes back to St. Patrick’s Day of ’07, that the defendant stands out brightly in his recollection even though he seldom patronizes Joxer Daly’s.
The Councilman said that Mr. Singerman was one of two principals involved in fisticuffs at Joxer Daly’s at the climax of a St. Paddy’s Day celebration two years ago. Or as the Councilman termed it, “he was half of the problem.”
But he asserted that he never has known the defendant’s name. “I only know it now,” he said, “because it has been in the news.”
Mr. O’Leary characterized the burly Mr. Singerman, 6-foot-1, almost 300 pounds, as “the obnoxious type,” “loud,” “somebody who always wants more. You never can do enough for him. On the Saturday night we are talking about, he came up to a crowd at the end of the bar where I was standing and asked me to buy him a drink. I told him no.”
The Councilman said he seldom sees Mr. Singerman but that that is plenty.
“I would be surprised if he came into the bar three times a year,” Mr. O’Leary said. “But every time he does, he is loud. He tries to draw attention to himself. He never is satisfied. He always wants more. No matter what you do to accommodate him, he always wants more.
“He is the loud and brassy type, with the way he speaks and with the jewelry that he wears. He likes to show people that he has money. I also hear that he tips generously. He wants people to notice him, to notice that he is important.”
The Councilman’s recollection of events is contested in part by an eyewitness who charged that the Councilman had been drinking excessively and that it was the Councilman, not the suspect, who ignited the onesided brawl, that the Councilman did the taunting.
Who Is Wrong?
“Lies, a pack of lies,” Mr. O’Leary said of the sharply different description. “But I am not surprised. He has a lot riding on the outcome. I imagine he can say anything.
“In my mind, he is not an upstanding citizen.”
By the competing accounts, it appears that neither liked the other very much going into the evening, a smoldering, ongoing disagreement that sounded like a turf war.
The explosive dispute at the end of the evening inflamed a situation that already was blazing rhetorically. “A wreck getting ready to happen,” was the way one source described the ending.
Mr. O’Leary, at least 100 pounds lighter than his adversary, said that on the night in question at Joxer Daly’s, his bartenders told him that Mr. Singerman had arrived at the Irish pub about 11 o’clock.
The Councilman was elsewhere, and did not come in until 1 a.m.
“After last call,” Mr. O’Leary said, never referring to Mr. Singerman by name, but rather by a pronoun, “he said he was not through. He wanted a shot. I said, ‘We are closed.’
“He wouldn’t accept that.
“He says to me, ‘Why are you talking to me that way? I own Culver City. You think because you are a Councilman you own Culver City. But you don’t.’”
After a further heated exchange, according to Mr. O’Leary, Mr. Singerman, infuriated by the tone of the owner’s refusal,told Mr. O’Leary, “If you want to talk to me that way, let’s go outside.’”
The Councilman said he accepted Mr. Singerman’s challenge, heading out the back door to the parking lot.
“That is all I remember,” Mr. O’Leary said.
The proprietor said he went outside to emphasize to the customer that he and everyone else was cut off from further drinking “because you can lose your license over something like this.”
Mr. O’Leary said he exited the building first. The defendant “was behind me, but I have no idea how far.”
Meanwhile, their seething word war never abated.
The Councilman accused Mr. Singerman, of Hispanic descent, of slurring his Irish heritage by hitching profane adjectives to his Gaelic ancestry.
Mr. O’Leary claimed that Mr. Singerman seems to enjoy lording his power over the proprietor when he comes in.
“The way he talks,” said the Councilman, “he reminds me of the Mafia in New York. They say if you pay them, they will see your place is protected.”
What is bound to be a crucial area as this story plays out is how much the Councilman had been drinking prior to the incident.
With a friend from his native Ireland in town, Mr. O’Leary said that he had been in Malibu earlier in the day and that he had been drinking, but he insisted he was clear-headed going into the one-punch knockout.
As of today, Mr. O’Leary said he remains in considerable pain, that he is taking Vicodin every 4 hour hours to stave off the worst discomfort.
He will miss his second straight City Council meeting tonight at 7 o’clock in Council Chambers, he said.
“I would like to be there. But it would be ridiculous. I can’t see out of one eye. I wouldn’t be of any help.”
The Councilman said he would not estimate how soon he will be able to resume his routine. “As soon as the pain dies and I can see through my right eye,” he said. “When, is a personal judgment.”