- Associated Press - Thursday, August 5, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - Japanese eating champion Takeru Kobayashi is out of hot water following his arrest over a Fourth of July frank fracas.

A judge in Brooklyn court said Thursday that the case will be purged from Kobayashi’s record if he stays out of trouble for six months. A relieved and jovial Kobayashi said afterward that he would.

“I’ve been up all night, nervous about the outcome,” he said through an interpreter. “So now, I’m thinking about what I want to eat. … Steak.”

The slim, boyish 32-year-old champ went to court in an expensive-looking dark suit _ a stark contrast to his jail attire, a black T-shirt bearing the message “Free Kobi” in green letters.

His legal trouble started when a contract dispute kept him out of the annual Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest, but he showed up anyway.

“I was there as a spectator just to cheer on my buddies,” he said through an interpreter last month. Fans chanted for him, and “in the heat of it, I jumped on the stage, hoping they would let me eat.”

His attorney, Mario D. Romano, said his client was waved up onstage after spectators began chanting, “Let him eat!”

“Shortly after he got on the stage, he was grabbed from behind by officers,” Romano said.

Kobayashi had been charged with obstruction of governmental administration, resisting arrest, trespassing and disorderly conduct.

“It was sad. But at the same time, I was proud,” said Emi Watnabe, formerly of Tokyo and now of Brooklyn, who was among a small group of supporters outside the courthouse Thursday. “He was standing up for what was right, and it is rare for Japanese to speak up.”

Kobayashi, who lives in New York, had refused to sign a contract with Major League Eating, the fast food equivalent of the NFL. On his Japanese-language blog, he said he wanted to be free to enter contests sanctioned by other groups.

He said outside court that he hasn’t yet come to any agreements. He has not made amends with Major League Eating.

“At least for this month, I’ve only been nervous about what is going to happen today,” he said.

Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, of San Jose, Calif., won the annual competition this year by downing 54 hot dogs in 10 minutes.

After witnessing the drama, Chestnut said, “I feel bad for him.”

Chestnut claimed the mustard-yellow champion’s belt and a $20,000 purse but was disappointed with his own performance. The 26-year-old was aiming for a record 70 dogs in 10 minutes. Last year, he ate 68 dogs, four more than Kobayashi.

Major League Eating had called Kobayashi’s actions “inappropriate and unfortunate.”

The diminutive professional eater plans to enter a pizza-eating contest Aug. 21 in Canada. Kobayashi didn’t give any further details, but said it will involve a different sponsor.

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