A panel of Czech judges ruled Tuesday that concert promoters – and not Lamb of God frontman Randy Blythe – were largely to blame for the tragic death nearly three years ago of a teenage fan of the metal band, saying the singer’s actions did not constitute a crime. The state attorney, who had sought a conviction for manslaughter and asked for the minimum sentence of five years, immediately appealed the decision.
Blythe declined to talk to the press after the trial but told the court earlier he was ready to face the music. “As I’ve stated previously, I do not wish to avoid my responsibility, and if I thought I were guilty I would plead guilty right now,” he said. “I still believe I acted responsibly to protect myself, my band, our equipment, and our audience. I did not strike anyone or run across the stage to push anyone,” as one witness had claimed.
Concertgoers testified in February and on Monday that Blythe had violently pushed 19-year-old Daniel Nosek off the stage during the band’s concert in Prague on May 24, 2010, using both hands. But there were stark and contradicting differences in key details as to when the young man breached the security barrier and which way he was facing when allegedly pushed, points the defense played up to create reasonable doubt in Bltyhe’s favor.
What is clear is that later that evening, the Czech teenager – though sober and not under the influence of any drugs – fell on his back and hit his head, appeared to be OK but later complained of a headache, and vomited violently. He was rushed to a hospital, where he underwent emergency brain surgery but slipped into a coma and died several weeks later.
An expert on biomechanics, called by Blythe’s defense, presented the results of a recreation of the fall – in part using “fresh cadavers dead for less than 12 hours” to measure the impact on a human skull – to the court on Tuesday. The expert said Nosek must have fallen backwards as he would not have had time, involuntarily, to twist around before impact. Had the teenager fallen forward, his hands would have reflexively shot out to protect himself, he said.
Crucially for Blythe’s defense, the expert said that had the teenager been pushed, he would not have fallen beyond the first row of fans, as two witnesses had testified. But state attorney Vladimir Muzik –a bear of a man, whose forearms could not be contained by his crimson-trimmed black robe – took great issue with the experiment, which he argued failed to recreate actual conditions and discounted the testimony of a key witness. The presiding judge wholeheartedly agreed with the prosecutor while noting most witnesses’ recollections were “foggy” at best.
While video footage had captured images of Blythe subduing an admittedly drunk and out-of-control fan named Milan Poradek – who had rushed the stage three times – the fatal moment leading to Nosek’s death was not recorded. The presiding judge, Tomas Kubovec, put the lion’s share of the blame for the tragedy on lax security and safety precautions at the Prague club, which thereby allowed fans to take to the stage.
Kubovec said “ninety percent of the audience” must have known stage-diving was prohibited and dangerous. He said the teenager, who was reportedly a Lamb of God fanatic but understood little English, evidently also misunderstood Bltyhe’s hand gesture calling for applause “that would have been absolutely understandable for English speakers” as an invitation to take to the stage. Nonetheless, the judge said, Nosek must have known that stage-diving was not permitted, as there was a barrier in place and security personnel who had prevented other fans from climbing over it.
As for the over $500,000 the boy’s family is seeking in damages, Kubovec said they should try to get the money from the concert promoters and organizers. For his part, the Lamb of God singer made a heartfelt apology to the Noseks, saying, “I can understand that pain as only the father of a dead child can.”
“This has been a very sad and emotive experience for me, but I’ve tried to remain as objective as possible because my emotions have no impact on what is for me and for the family of Daniel Nosek the most important thing: the truth,” said Blythe. “He was just a boy. I wish he were still here.”
Blythe had pledged “to serve my sentence like a man” if found guilty by the Czech courts and to work tirelessly to prevent another such tragedy from ever occurring at a Lamb of God show “or any other show” – if found innocent.