An air cargo specialist who might otherwise be serving in the Middle East was sent to prison Friday to serve a sentence for murder.

Keith E. Mincy, 21, was sentenced to serve a 5-year-to-life sentence for the stabbing death of Lorenzo Thompson, 20, of Ogden, on Sept. 23. He was sent to the Utah State Prison immediately after 3rd District Judge James Sawaya sentenced him Friday.A jury found Mincy guilty of second-degree murder on Dec. 11. Defense attorney Hans Scheffler, however, asked the judge to set aside that verdict and reduce it to manslaughter.

"One clear picture presented at the time of trial . . . is that Mr. Thompson started the fight. He was the agressor," Scheffler said. "It was Mr. Thompson, six feet, 265 pounds attacking Keith."

He asked the judge to have mercy on the father of two and former Hill Air Force Base airman, who has lost his military career because of the conviction. "I suppose if things were different, he'd probably be in the Middle East right now."

Mincy apologized to the judge for stabbing Thompson during an early-morning fight near 115 S. West Temple. "There's no one that's as sorry for what happened as I am," he said.

"I wasn't trying to endanger anyone's life, I was just trying to defend myself."

But Salt Lake County deputy attorney Robert Stott said Mincy had a history of assaulting people on the military base and reminded the judge that Mincy gave four different versions of the fight to police officers.

"The only one of the six (involved in the fight) that had a weapon was Mr. Mincy. The only one that used a weapon was Mr. Mincy. The jury has spoken," he said.

Sawaya said he didn't believe Mincy set out to kill anyone that night, but the fact that he was carrying a large knife with him showed an intent to use it. "What occurred was not entirely out of the realm of possibility because you carried a weapon with you," he said, explaining that he had no choice but to impose the sentence for second-degree murder.

"I think the Board of Pardons would be justified in doing something to make your sentence less severe."