Woodside Man Charged With Fatal Punch Faces Court On Victim’s Birthday

Woodside resident Steven O’Brien (right) is charged with third-degree assault for allegedly throwing the punch that killed John McGee in Sunnyside on Nov. 22. Pool photo by Dennis Clark.

Woodside resident Steven O’Brien (right) is charged with third-degree assault for allegedly throwing the punch that killed John McGee in Sunnyside on Nov. 22. Pool photo by Dennis Clark.

By David Brand

Family and friends of John “Danny” McGee filled a row inside a crowded Queens criminal courtroom Friday morning as the man charged in relation to McGee’s death appeared in court on what would have been the victim’s 22nd birthday.

Steven O’Brien, a Woodside resident, is charged with third-degree assault for allegedly throwing the punch that killed McGee during an altercation outside a Sunnyside bar around 3:45 a.m. on Nov. 22, according to the criminal complaint. McGee fell and hit his head on the ground. He was pronounced dead at Elmhurst Hospital.

“Today would have been his 22nd birthday,” said McGee’s aunt Denise Murphy.

Murphy, a Maspeth resident, was accompanied by her husband Tim and about ten of McGee’s friends and colleagues, including his former boss.

McGee’s mother, father and sisters live in Ireland, Tim Murphy said.

“We’re here to make sure my nephew has representation,” he said. “Christmas was very difficult. Thanksgiving was very difficult ... And it will be for the rest of our lives.”

If convicted, O’Brien faces up to a year in prison. 

“I want this man to be punished as much as he can,” Tim Murphy said. “He killed somebody.”

McGee’s Uncle Tim Murphy, a Maspeth resident, said Friday would have been McGee’s 22nd birthday.  Eagle  photo by David Brand.

McGee’s Uncle Tim Murphy, a Maspeth resident, said Friday would have been McGee’s 22nd birthday. Eagle photo by David Brand.

The case has generated significant media attention in McGee and O’Brien’s native Ireland and a reporter from an Irish television station also spoke with Murphy in the busy courthouse hallway.

O’Brien, 25, dressed in a crisp blue suit with a white shirt and purple pocket square. He arrived at the courthouse shortly before 9 a.m. for his appearance before Judge Scott Dunn. He sat in the front row with four family members before his case was adjourned until Feb. 21.

His attorney, Matthew Gartenberg, said the district attorney’s office was not yet ready for trial and had not made an offer for a plea deal to O’Brien, who was released on $25,000 bond.

“Mr. O’Brien is presumed innocent and we’re going to keep fighting the charges,” Gartenberg said.