Nearly three years after a San Francisco Giants fan was beaten unconscious in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium, prompting a national discussion of safety at sports stadiums and the intensity of fan rivalries, two men pleaded guilty today to carrying out the attack.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli sentenced Louie Sanchez, 31, to eight years in prison immediately after his guilty plea to a felony mayhem charge.
Co-defendant Marvin Norwood, 33, pleaded guilty to an assault charge and was sentenced to four years behind bars -- a term prosecutors said has already been completed. Federal authorities, however, plan to take Norwood into custody in connection with a case in which Norwood and Sanchez are charged with being felons in possession of firearms, according to Thom Mrozek of the U.S. Attorney's Office. Both could face up to 10 years in federal prison in that case, Mrozek said.
The two -- who had been set to go on trial next month -- admitted as part of their pleas that they were involved in the attack on Bryan Stow, a Bay Area paramedic and father of two who had attended the opening day game March 31, 2011, between the Dodgers and Giants with a group of friends. Stow was left permanently brain damaged by the attack.
The judge lashed out at the men as he pronounced their sentences, saying the attack was cowardly and "absolutely brutal, absolutely vicious." He said Stow was blindsided, incapacitated and then kicked.
"Not only did you blindside Mr. Stow, and once he was on the ground -- from what I know of the facts and the evidence presented at the preliminary hearing -- it was obvious that he was incapacitated but yet you continued to hit him on the head and kick him in the head," Lomeli said.
"... You not only ruined the life or Mr. Stow ... but of his children, his spouse, his family, his friends," the judge said. "Mr. Stow will forever be trapped in the medical condition you caused him."
The judge said they were "the biggest nightmare" for people who attend public events.
Stow was not in court for the hearing, but his family members spoke on his behalf about the incapacitating injuries he suffered.
"The attack that you inflicted on my son on March 31, 2011, at Dodger Stadium was so mean and vicious that it has left Bryan unable to even care for himself," Stow's father, David, said, with a San Francisco Giants baseball cap perched on the lectern where he spoke. "Bryan has a lifetime of pain, therapy and hard work daily that he must endure. He will strive to persevere."
Speaking directly to Sanchez and Norwood, Stow's father said, "The time you serve will be insignificant compared to what Bryan must endure. However, the years that you (spend) in prison is what you two cretins deserve."
One of Stow's sisters, Erin Collins, told the two, "To say you got off easy is an understatement. Because of you both, Bryan's life was nearly taken from him and will never be the same. ... Because of your actions, Bryan can't go to the bathroom by himself. He can't shower by himself. He has to wear adult diapers. I hate having to even say that out loud but it shows the severity of what you did."
Another of Stow's sisters, Bonnie, told the two that her brother needs to take two types of anti-seizure medications to prevent the seizures he endured for months "after you brutally and cowardly attacked him."
"No sentence you receive will ever be long enough. Eventually you will be released. Bryan's sentence is a lifetime," Bonnie Stow said.
As part of the plea agreement with prosecutors, all other charges against the men were dropped. Both men had originally been charged with mayhem, assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury and battery with serious bodily injury. Sanchez had also been charged with a misdemeanor battery count involving a female Giants fan who was doused with soda inside the stadium and another misdemeanor battery count for allegedly swinging his fist at a young man who was with another group of Giants fans in the parking lot after the game.
Stow was attacked while walking through the parking lot of Dodger Stadium with three friends. The group had an initial confrontation with Sanchez and Norwood and walked away, but the pair confronted them again.
Stow was slugged and fell to the ground, cracking his skull on the pavement. He was then kicked while on the ground.
As part of his plea, Sanchez -- who smiled at points during the court hearing -- admitted that he punched and kicked Stow. Norwood admitted that he had helped Sanchez during the attack on Stow.
Prosecutors said Stow will require skilled long-term care and daily assistance for the rest of his life.
Gary Hearnsberger, the head of the District Attorney's Major Crimes Division, said Sanchez could potentially face a second-degree murder charge if Stow dies as a result of the injuries he received in the attack.
Outside court, Deputy District Attorney Michele Hanisee said the two "did get off easy," calling the sentences "frustrating."
"Bryan Stow is serving a life sentence in (a) wheelchair and diapers," the prosecutor said of the case that she said "brought public attention to the problem of fan violence."
"It shouldn't exist. This is a game. It should be family friendly," she said.
Sanchez and Norwood waived their presence at a hearing Aug. 20 to
determine how much restitution they will have to pay.
—City News Service