One of the greatest tragedies played out at Dodger Stadium in recent years was recalled in a courtroom just miles away as two men pleaded guilty Thursday to a 2011 beating that left San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow brain damaged and disabled.
They were immediately sentenced by an angry judge who called them cowards and the sort of people that sports fans fear when they go to games.
"You are the biggest nightmare for people who attend public events," said Superior Court Judge George Lomeli as he faced Louis Sanchez and Marvin Norwood across a Los Angeles courtroom crowded with media and members of Stow's family who wept and denounced the two men.
He noted that Sanchez was smirking during his remarks.
"This is not funny," he snapped at Sanchez who said he knew that.
Sanchez, 31, acknowledging he kicked and punched Stow, pleaded guilty to one count of mayhem that disabled and disfigured the victim. He was sentenced to eight years in prison with credit for 1,086 days.
The complaint specified that he cut and disabled Stow's tongue, put out an eye and slit his nose, ear and lip in addition to other injuries that left him brain damaged.
Norwood pleaded guilty to one count of assault likely to produce great bodily injury and was sentenced to four years. His credit for time already in custody appeared to account for at least the majority of that term. Deputy District Attorney Michele Hanisee said Norwood could be released immediately.
But federal authorities said it would not be so fast. They have charged both men with weapons possession charges that could send them to federal prison for an additional 10 years.
Stow family speaks
The men were sentenced after Stow's family addressed the court. His sisters wept.
David Stow, the victim's father, placed a Giants ball cap on a podium.
"The years you spend in prison is what you cretins deserve," he said as Sanchez smirked at him.
The victim's sister, Bonnie Stow, described her brother's anguished life.
"We shower him, we dress him, we fix his meals," she said. "We make sure he gets his 13 medications throughout the day. He takes two different anti-seizure medications to prevent the seizures he endured for months after you brutally and cowardly attacked him."
Lomeli told the men: "You not only ruined the life of Mr. Stow [but] his children, his family, his friends."
He said the two only seemed to care about when they will be getting out of jail.
"One day you will be released," he said, "and Mr. Stow will forever be trapped in the condition you left him in."
The judge said he often takes his son to football games and "my biggest fear is that we might run into people like you, who have no civility."
He concluded, "it's only a game at the end of the day and you lost perspective."
Stow, a 45-year-old paramedic from Santa Cruz who attended the 2011 opening day game in Los Angeles between the Dodgers and the Giants, was beaten nearly to death in a parking lot after the game. He suffered brain damage and is permanently disabled, requiring 24-hour-a-day care.
The beating prompted public outrage and led to increased security at Dodgers' games. A civil suit by Stow is pending against the Dodgers organization and former owner Frank McCourt.
Outside court, Hanisee said prosecutors had obtained sentences close to the maximum possible if they had been convicted at trial. She said there were insufficient facts to justify a charge of attempted murder which was considered.
In response to one of the family members' comments, she said, "They did get off easy. Brian Stow is serving a life sentence in a wheelchair and diapers. He is never going to get better. "
If there is any positive outcome, Hanisee said attention has been drawn to the problem of fan violence at sports events.
Sanchez and Norwood were arrested after a lengthy manhunt that briefly involved the arrest of an innocent man. The two acknowledged their involvement during a series of secretly recorded jailhouse conversations.
Norwood was recorded telling his own mother by phone that he was involved and saying, "I will certainly go down for it."
The words the two men spoke in a jail lockup, unaware they were being recorded, were played at a preliminary hearing as they were ordered to stand trial on charges of mayhem and assault and battery.
Sanchez acknowledged he attacked a Giants fan, and Norwood said he had no regrets about backing him up.
Witnesses testified about the parking lot confrontation, saying Stow was jumped from behind and his head crashed to the pavement. While he was on the ground, Sanchez kicked him in the head three times, they said. Last spring, Stow returned home after two years in hospitals and rehabilitation centres. His family said he requires constant physical therapy and remains severely disabled.
Corey Maciel, a fellow paramedic who came with Stow from Northern California to cheer for the Giants, told of seeing his friend attacked and throwing his own body over him to prevent further harm.
"As soon as he was punched, he was unconscious and fell back on his head," Maciel testified. "He was unable to brace himself. I saw his head bounce off the concrete. I heard the crack."
The assailant then kicked Stow in the head at least three times and again in the torso, according to the testimony.
Maciel said he heard profanities and one person say, "[expletive] the Giants. That's what you get."
"I threw my body over Bryan's head to stop any more physical contact," Maciel said.
Another friend, also a paramedic, held the injured Stow's head to protect his spine. But he had already suffered devastating injuries. Last spring, Stow returned home after two years in hospitals and rehabilitation centres. His family said he requires constant physical therapy and remains severely disabled.