SALT LAKE CITY — It was a chaotic fight in the dark.
As they attacked Michael Workman, Ryan Curtz and Austin Taylor said they didn't know that their friend had a knife, attorneys said.
They didn't know that Talon Hamman was going to jump on Workman and allegedly stab him multiple times. They didn't intend for Workman, 25, to be killed, they said.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed with their explanations and worked out a deal that allowed both Curtz and Taylor to plead guilty to obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony, and assault, a class A misdemeanor.
They agreed that a fair sentence would be 41 days in jail — which both men had already served — and three years of probation. Third District Judge Ann Boyden concurred with the recommended sentences, even though pre-sentence reports prepared about the men apparently suggested prison or more jail.
But the judge repeatedly warned that she would require "strict compliance." Any probation violation may result in Curtz, 18, and Taylor, 21, serving one to 15 years in prison for the obstruction charge and up to a year in jail for assault.
"I'm suspending that sentence — literally hanging it over your head for three years from today," Boyden told Taylor. "It is a new world for both the defendants here today with this serious sentence."
She ordered each of them to perform 150 hours of community service. Together, they owe Workman's family $4,000 in restitution.
"I thought it was hurtful," Workman's mother, Diana, said of the sentence after the hearing. "But I thought the judge did a good job of sentencing them because they have a turning point in their life to be good or bad."
"It certainly was what Mike would have wanted," his father, Robert Workman, said.
"My son was a kind and forgiving person," Diana Workman added. "I think he would want these boys to have that opportunity."
Both Curtz and Taylor apologized to Workman's family for their actions in the early morning hours of Aug. 23.
"I think about your family and Michael every day," Curtz said. "I was never expecting any of this to happen. It was never my intention for anyone to get hurt.
"I'm extremely sorry," Taylor said. "I know there's nothing I can do to bring your son back. I wish that whole night never happened. Things got way out of hand and I'm sorry."
Prosecutor Paul Parker detailed for Boyden why he asked for a sentence that was more lenient than what Adult Probation and Parole recommended. "The defendants here today did not murder Michael Workman," Parker said, noting the difficulty in distinguishing between criminal and moral responsibility.
Workman had apparently been playing Frisbee golf on Aug. 22 and phoned his father that evening to tell him he was going to hang out with friends afterward. He went to a friend's house and parked his car nearby, just west of an LDS meetinghouse at 4930 S. Westmoor Road (1730 East).
In the early morning hours of Aug. 23, Parker said, a woman called Hamann from Workman's phone and said she had been hurt.
"They all headed down to this place and ended up at the church to find (the woman)," Parker said. "She came running to them ... and started a series of events that caused a terrible catastrophe."
Workman called the men back and a "heated discussion" ensued. Workman left the home with two other people and was confronted by Hamann, Curtz and Taylor.
"In that context, a fight started between Michael Workman and (Curtz) and Michael Workman was getting the best of Ryan and Austin stepped in to help," Parker said, adding that Hamann jumped in with a knife, apparently unbeknownst to Curtz and Taylor.
"(Workman's) death was caused by some terrible stab wounds, not any wounds caused by this fight," he said.
Robert Workman said his son was the type of person who was loved by all who knew him and he tried to be a friend to everyone. He was the kind of kid who told his parents he loved them every day starting from the day he learned to talk.
"He didn't have a mean bone in his body," his father said. "Michael didn't know them or I'm sure we wouldn't be here today."
He pointed out that Curtz and Taylor helped hold Workman down while Hamann allegedly stabbed him and that they never tried to help him or call for help.
"Because of the extent of this involvement, we feel probation isn't a sufficient amount to give these men to feel what they took," Robert Workman said. "We can't imagine the pain our son went through and the pain we've endured. … This is a wound that will never heal in our hearts."
Defense attorneys Cara Tangaro and Wally Bugden pointed to their clients' limited criminal histories, involving mostly minor possession charges, and reiterated that their clients did not know that a knife was involved. They both spoke of the remorse their clients feel.Comment on this story
Boyden spoke multiple times about the "very fine decisions" she had to make in her sentencing decision, taking into account that Michael Workman was killed under "tragic, heartbreaking circumstances."
Parker said he understands the emotions involved in the case, but had to look to what the law allows.
"It's a cold assessment," he said. "You have to call it on what it is. It's not what you feel the moral responsibilities are. It's just the facts are what they are."
As part of their probation, Both Curtz and Taylor must assist in the prosecution of Hamann. A preliminary hearing has been set in his case for Feb. 8.