Judge chastises Bluffdale man for lack of remorse

Claim of self-defense in shooting is 'pure crap,' Kouris says

Published: Friday, Sept. 3 2010 1:10 a.m. MDT

Paralyzed neighborhood watch advocate David Serbeck, right, wipes a tear as a statement from his children is read describing his limitations with family life now that he is in a wheelchair. His wife, Jeni, sits at right. Campos was sentenced to three years to life in prison for attempted murder and aggravated assault for shooting Serbeck in Bluffdale.

Al Hartmann

WEST JORDAN — The judge just wanted the man to apologize.

Instead, Reginald Campos repeated Thursday that he acted in self-defense on the July 2009 night he shot a man in his Bluffdale neighborhood, paralyzing him from the waist down. And that is a claim 3rd District Judge Mark Kouris did not accept.

"And to say you were acting in self-defense, quite frankly, is pure crap," the judge said. "You don't get out of a car with a gun and then claim self-defense."

Kouris said he had no choice but to sentence Campos, 44, to three years to life in prison for attempted murder with injury, a first-degree felony. He ordered the sentence to be served consecutively to a sentence of zero to five years in prison for aggravated assault, a third-degree felony.

A jury convicted Campos of both charges in July. Campos also was ordered to pay $44,260 in restitution.

Kouris told Campos he was concerned that he'd never seen Campos express any remorse or guilt for his actions that have left David Serbeck confined to a wheelchair.

But Campos still chose not to apologize. Instead, he called on God to testify to the judge.

"I want to stand before you and bear testimony to you that I have been honest and there's been no deceit in my statements," Campos said. "And I ask God that he testify to you through the power of the Holy Ghost that I have been truthful to you."

Kouris reacted by raising his voice and scolding Campos.

"You have chained him to that chair for the rest of his life and you show no sympathy. I can't wrap my head around that," the judge said.

"The thing that is most telling to me is that in everything (Serbeck) has provided to the court, he tells me how bad he feels for your family, which is something I have never seen from you," Kouris said.

Kouris said Campos could have responded several different ways when he chased down two men who were on an unofficial neighborhood watch patrol after his teenage daughter told him the men were following her. He said Campos could have called the police, taken his daughter to the police station or even found the car and taken down a license plate number for police.

Instead, Campos grabbed a gun and confronted the men, eventually shooting Serbeck, severing his spine and paralyzing him from the chest down.

Campos has said numerous times that Serbeck had a gun and racked it, prompting him to shoot. But the jury did not buy the argument that he was acting in self-defense.

"It is possible for a good man to make a bad decision, and in this case you made a horrible decision," Kouris said. "Mr. Serbeck is also a good man, a good father and husband, a proud man who is having to re-learn how to do simple things like going to the bathroom again … who has to carry a spray bottle to regulate his body temperature."

Defense attorney Rebecca Skordas tried to explain Campos' lack of remorse to the judge, saying: "your honor doesn't know what I know." She alluded to allegations that have been made against Serbeck by as many as five women, but was cut off by Kouris.

"I don't think it would be helpful to come in and smear the victim at this point," he interrupted. "So what (Campos) is saying is 'since I shot this guy and paralyzed him I found out he's not such a great guy and he deserved it?' "

"Only God knows what we deserve," Skordas replied. "But if you are going to condemn Mr. Campos for not having sympathy, you can condemn me as well."

Prosecutor Nathan Evershed responded by reading letters submitted by Serbeck's daughter and son talking about all of the things their father can no longer do.

"My dad used to be able to do three backflips on the trampoline, but now he can't go on the trampoline," Serbeck's 13-year-old son wrote. "I get lonely out there by myself."

Evershed also read letters from Serbeck expressing his regret that he will never walk his daughter down the aisle or dance with her at her wedding. After the hearing, Serbeck said he felt the possible low end of the sentence wasn't enough.

"My initial reaction is, a minimum of three years?" he told the Deseret News. "Realistically, how long is it going to take for me to start walking again, if I ever do? Three years is not long enough."

He said again that he felt bad for Campos' family, but his wife, Jeni, stated that she still can't believe Campos' refusal to apologize.

"I think the biggest thing was that he doesn't show any remorse," she said.

As for Campos' family, they made it clear that they are sorry for the Serbeck family, saying they pray for the Serbecks to this day.

"We're here to support Reggie, and we let him know we love him," Campos' brother, Conrad Campos, said. "Obviously, we're going to appeal it and move it in that direction, but we will continue to pray for the Serbeck family. This devastated two families directly."

e-mail: emorgan@desnews.com

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