PRESCOTT, Arizona - Anthony George Ortiz, accused in the death of a man he punched, pleaded guilty to one count of negligent homicide and on Wednesday was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison.
Ortiz, 26, of Paulden was originally charged on seven counts, including second-degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault, and four counts of disorderly conduct in connection with an August 2011 fight outside a bar that fatally injured Robert Emmett Holleran.
Ortiz struck Holleran, 42, "in the head multiple times, causing Holleran to fall to the ground unconscious," a police probable cause statement said.
Ortiz ran from the scene, the statement said. Witnesses told police Holleran regained consciousness for a short time and got up and walked about 30 feet before falling face-first onto the sidewalk. He never got back up.
Holleran was taken to John C. Lincoln hospital in Phoenix. He died after being taken off life support by his family.
When Ortiz was arrested, he admitted to police that he had assaulted Holleran, the statement said. He told them he chased Holleran down the Whiskey Row sidewalk and punched him because Holleran had kicked a woman in the ribs at a bar when she refused to dance with him.
But, defense attorney David Shapiro argued, there was a lot more to the story.
Shapiro said another man had first assaulted Holleran, knocking him to the ground and giving him a bloody nose. A witness described that man as holding Holleran down while another woman kicked him in the head.
Ortiz struck Holleran after he got up from that assault, Shapiro said, and he fell to the ground again.
The medical examiner, Shapiro said, could not determine what caused the skull fracture the led to Holleran's death.
Shapiro also pointed out that some witnesses told "significantly different" stories, and, he said, some were "unavailable" to testify at a trial.
Deputy County Attorney Steve Young said, all that aside, Ortiz had pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and that surveillance video showed Holleran was trying to get away from Ortiz.
Three of Holleran's sisters asked Superior Court Judge Tina Ainley to impose, as one said, "a long and harsh sentence."
"Anthony Ortiz has gotten off easy. His plea to negligent homicide will get him a little jail time, but my brother is gone," Mary Hennessee said.
Ortiz chose to speak not to Ainley but to the victim's family.
"It was never my intention to seriously physically injure or kill him. I made a terrible mistake and its something I'll have to live with the rest of my live," he said.
Ainley said she recognized that "there may have been other participants who
contributed" to Holleran's death, but "he has admitted to" his part.
"My job is to hold Mr. Ortiz accountable for his own actions," she said.
She sentenced Ortiz to 4.5 years in prison with 955 days' credit for time already served.
No one else was charged in the incident, according to court records.