A man originally facing up to 20 years in prison for allegedly smashing a glass bottle against another man's face in November agreed to a plea deal Wednesday for misdemeanor assault, after inconsistencies arose in the victim's story.
Lorenzo Jefferson, 46, was sentenced to one year in prison upon pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault in the fourth degree. Additionally, Jefferson was sentenced to one year in jail with one year suspended for a separate case involving misdemeanor fraud.
Jefferson received an additional 45 days in jail, which was previously suspended, from a 2007 harassment conviction.
Police arrested Jefferson at his home on Nov. 12, 2009, after an altercation with a 28-year-old man after watching a professional football game. The victim sustained significant injuries that police believed to be consistent with a glass bottle, police said at the time.
Both Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp and Jefferson's lawyer, public defender Eric Hedland, agreed Wednesday that there were some unanswered questions in the case that could make a jury trial problematic for both sides.
Hedland told the court the fight occurred at Jefferson's home and was triggered over a "racial slur" during a conversation about the war in Afghanistan and U.S. President Barrack Obama. Jefferson, who is African American, contends that he did not use any deadly weapon in the altercation, according to Hedland.
A doctor testified during a grand jury trial that the victim sustained a crushed orbital bone in his face that looked consistent with being hit with a foreign object, Hedland told the court. However, the victim was inconsistent on what that object was, at different times saying it was a bottle, a lamppost or a baseball bat, he added. And the victim conceded during grand jury testimony that he didn't remember what happened and admitted he could have initiated the fight, Hedland said.
Kemp said the state recognized the altercation took place in Jefferson's home, however, and that the victim sustained significant injuries. The plea agreement was an appropriate solution, she said.
Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins accepted the plea agreement.
"It's obviously a compromise," she said, adding that both the prosecution and defense knew the verdict could have gone either way had the case gone to a jury trial. "I think it's a reasonable resolution given the circumstances."
Collins told Jefferson that by no means is it ever OK to use racial epithets.
"It's not appropriate to respond with violence either," she said.
The change of plea and sentencing hearing also involved a separate case involving a misdemeanor fraud charge for the misuse of a credit card in May of 2009 to obtain cigarettes and alcohol. Collins suspended a yearlong prison sentence in that case.
Collins also ordered Jefferson to serve three years probation upon release from prison on the assault charge. Jefferson has an extensive court record that includes convictions for misdemeanor assault, disorderly conduct, domestic violence, misconduct involving weapons and harassment. Collins said probation will be Jefferson's big test, because he has been unable to abide by the law for more than a 3-year period in recent years.
"If you decide to violate the law again you're going back to jail, big time," Collins said.
Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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