Image: James Joseph Cialella
Philadelphia Police via AP file
James Joseph Cialella of Philadelphia acknowledges shooting a man at a movie theater but argues it was self-defense.
updated 1/2/2009 12:34:38 PM ET 2009-01-02T17:34:38

An Iraq veteran charged in a Christmas night shooting over noisy moviegoers fired in self-defense, his lawyer said.

James Joseph Cialella, 29, of Philadelphia, is charged with firing a shot that broke the arm of Woffard Lomax Jr. inside a movie theater during a screening of the film "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

A judge on Wednesday ordered Cialella held for trial on aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and related charges. The judge tossed out an attempted murder charge over a prosecutor's objections, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Lomax, 31, told the judge he was at the movie with his girlfriend and her three teenagers, enjoying the film and laughing, when a man in front of him — not Cialella — told him to quiet down.

"We can't laugh?" Lomax recalled asking.

A second man threw popcorn at the family, and a brawl ensued. Lomax said he was fighting with the first man when the second man pulled out a gun and fired, striking him in the left arm.

Lawyer: He was being choked
A defense lawyer argued that Cialella was being choked and punched as he tried to break up the fight and fired in self-defense.

"He's a marksman," lawyer Greg Pagano said. "If he wanted to shoot to kill, he would have."

Cialella spent five months in Iraq with the Army before being honorably discharged in September, Pagano said.

Municipal Court Judge Craig M. Washington lowered Cialella's bond from $350,000 to $50,000 but ordered him to remain under house arrest if he is released. It was not immediately clear Thursday whether he had posted bail.

Lomax did not elaborate on his testimony after the hearing.

Police have said Cialella brought a .38-caliber handgun in his waistband to the South Philadelphia megaplex.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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