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Joey Chestnut regrets putting Berkeley protester in chokehold at hot dog contest

Joey Chestnut said he feels bad about putting an animal rights protester from Berkeley into a brief chokehold during the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest over the Fourth of July weekend, which was captured in a viral video. 

"As soon as I grabbed the guy, I realized he was a kid,’’ Chestnut told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. "I felt bad afterwards. I was just amped up, just focused on getting back to eating. It’s just unfortunate. I wish that it didn’t happen. It’s a bummer.'' 

Scott Gilbertson, 21, of Berkeley was arrested by New York police on suspicion of criminal trespass and disorderly conduct and harassment. 

All three were released from custody, Direct Action Everywhere said. 

USA today said he was one of three protesters, all animal rights activists working with a grassroots group called Direct Action Everywhere.

The two other protesters – Robert Yamada, 42 of Phoenix and Joshua Marxen, 31, of Santa Clara, Calif. –  were also arrested in the same charges, the newspaper reported. 

Gilbertson told USA Today that he felt Chestnut's chokehold was unnecessary. 

He acknowledged that he had been wearing a Storm Trooper mask – which freaked Chestnut out – and that made it hard for him to really see what was going on. 

"The ‘Deathstar’ reference compares the villainous megaweapon from the Star Wars film series to the largest factory pig farm in the country, Smithfield Foods’ Circle Four Farms in Milford, Utah,’’ Direct Action Everywhere wrote in a news release.

The whole encounter lasted no more than five seconds. 

Chestnut who is from Vallejo and a San Jose State graduate has won the hot dog eating contest 15 times in 16 years.

This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.