Even though Felipe Sandoval Lopez admitted he beat a man so badly that the man was comatose for six weeks, a jury ruled Wednesday that Lopez is not guilty of any crime.
Defense attorney Nancy Bergeson admitted that while Tom Segress' life never will be the same because of the beating April 17, she said Lopez, 21, of the Salt Lake area, fought Segress, Salt Lake City, in self-defense and Segress clearly was the aggressor.The three-man, five-woman jury apparently agreed.
They deliberated for just under two hours Wednesday before finding Lopez - who has been in jail since April 17 - not guilty of aggravated assault.
Bergeson said the verdict must have been a difficult one because of the extent of the injuries Segress suffered, but "very appropriate" based on the evidence.
Witnesses testified that Segress, 20, ran into a convenience store about 1:45 a.m. on April 17 and asked the clerk to phone police because he had just stopped a car thief. He then ran back outside and began chasing Lopez.
Both Segress and Lopez were angry and yelling at each other, and Lopez picked up bricks and began throwing them, witnesses said. Segress apparently threw bricks back at Lopez. Both took off their shirts and used them as shields from the objects.
Lopez apparently hit Segress with a brick and knocked him to the ground. Both then wrestled on the sidewalk. John Roberts said Lopez continued to beat Segress even after he was nearly unconscious.
"He (Lopez) lifted his head either by his hair or his ears and pounded Mr. Segress' face on the asphalt," Roberts told the jury. He said the defendant then stood up and kicked the nearly unconscious man several times in the head before walking away.
"(Segress) was virtually dead at that point," said prosecutor Charles Behrens."That's not self-defense when Mr. Segress is lying flat out being kicked in the head."
Segress was in a coma for six weeks following the fight. Investigators were unable to identify him for several days. Even family members did not recognize him after pictures were shown in the Deseret News and other media because he was beaten so badly.
Police characterized Segress as a "good Samaritan" who was trying to stop a crime, but Bergeson said she has serious questions about such a comparison.
The defense attorney said officers never received reports about any car prowls in the area. Nor was there any evidence to indicate that a stereo had been stolen or any crime whatsoever had occurred before Segress asked the clerk to call the police.
"I'm skeptical because he (Segress) also had a number of previous arrests," she said. "That's not consistent with being a good Samaritan." A bartender at a nearby tavern where Segress often went also described him as "arrogant and combative," she said.
Although the fight was a "sad turn of events that will affect Tom Segress for the rest of his life," Bergeson told the jury that her client acted justifiably in defending himself.
"Fights are the complete opposite of rationale. They are nothing but emotion."