Super Bowl sneaks face costly consequences

Sports fans are known to sometimes make fanatical life choices.

Getting a team logo tattoo. Naming their first born after their favorite player. Running naked on the field. (Please don't.)

But sneaking into Super Bowl LIII? That's going to cost you some serious coin.

Atlanta police say at least five people face criminal charges they worked their way into the Super Bowl here in Atlanta last month without a ticket. They're due back in court this month to learn how much their Super Bowl Experience is going to cost.

APD bodycam video showed two of them under arrest the night of the game. Wearing a bright red Tom Brady jersey and a set of handcuffs, Brian Swierzewski could not stop being a Patriots fan.

"Can you check the score?" he asked the officer.

"I'm sure they're watching it at the jail, man." the officer assured.

Police say Swierzewski tried to get into Mercedes-Benz Stadium without a ticket. Twice. The second time they charged him with disorderly conduct.

"Is it really 14-3?" he asked again, nodding at someone who was apparently standing off camera. "They're messing with me."
The other man in the video also went to jail for disorderly conduct. Police say Hamad Ghwari made it to the field level and, after being confronted, claimed he was with "several unnamed celebrities."

One of the officers looked over the arrest ticket.

"Damn! Y'all made it that far?" he asked incredulously.

"Made it in," said Swierzewski.

"With no ticket?" asked the cop.

With no ticket. So how did they get in? Lots of ways. According to the reports, one fan got in by sliding through an opening at the gate.  A Mercedes-Benz Stadium employee is accused of swapping his work shirt with a friend to get him inside. Both got caught. Both face criminal impersonation charges.

Shawheen Younai flew to Atlanta from Los Angeles. He's actually a diehard Patriots fan. But he would spend most of the game inside the Atlanta city jail, leaving around 3 AM, after police say he was caught without a ticket. Younai managed to get into the Delta Club, an exclusive section deep inside Mercedes-Benz.

He told me by phone that he really did have a ticket. It was with his friend.

"I didn't have it on me," he insisted. "I told them I didn't have my ticket and then they accused me of all this fraud and all this craziness."

But according to the report, "no friend show(ed) up... Mr. Younai did later tell the State Trooper that he did not have a ticket."

"Let's just say he had my ticket," Younai told me. "I loaned him my ticket for a duration of time."


On Super Bowl weekend a ticket was going for just under $3000 on the secondary market. So how much is it going to cost to be a Super Bowl Sneak?  

Attorney Ray Guidice regularly discusses sports and the law on 680 The Fan.

"So I would think out of pocket, court costs and fees about $1000," he figured. "$1500-2500 for good legal counsel. A day out of work to come here and if you lived out of town and came to the Super Bowl to sneak in now you've got to travel as well."

Cheaper to buy a real ticket from a scalper.

"I think so," Giudice agreed. "Enjoy yourself and not have to look over your shoulder for the whole game."

Even a cop apparently can't resist the gravitational pull of greatness. A DeKalb County internal affairs investigation cited video shot by a Boston TV station. They were following the Patriots into the Downtown Hyatt Regency a week before the game. The video showed police captain Curtis Williams standing on the sidewalk in uniform. He was not working that day.
Instead, he drove his unmarked police car to the team hotel, bringing along his fiance. He took pictures of two Aston Martins in the hotel garage reserved for Tom Brady. He wandered through the team lobby. He stood in places where the public was not allowed.

He wasn't allowed either.

"Many law enforcement agencies including our own worked hard on the Super Bowl," explained DeKalb police chief James Conroy. "And this just gives it a little bit of a black eye."

An internal affairs investigation found Williams violated department policy. He was the director of the police academy. After this, they transferred him.
"I allowed my excitement for the New England Patriots coming to town for the Super Bowl to get the best of me," he told investigators.

"He was very remorseful and apologetic," said chief Conroy.

So is he still a Patriots fan?

"I have not asked him that."

The fans charged with a crime have court dates throughout March. They may be able to have an attorney plead guilty on their behalf, avoiding the trip back to Atlanta.

No matter how much that night will cost them, they can at least be comforted by history. The Super Bowl they're accused of trying to sneak into -- and then watching from the Atlanta city jail -- was the lowest scoring and perhaps least exciting Super Bowl ever.
They didn't miss much.