Defendants acquitted of battery
Victoria A.F. Camron
St. Charles - Three men were acquitted Tuesday of the most serious charges in a parking-lot fight that left an Aurora man permanently injured.
Benjamin Zeitz, 26, of Batavia, was convicted of felony criminal damage to property for kicking the side of a car, denting a door and breaking a window.
Zeitz, Jason Pavlak and Matthew Richardson had been accused of beating an Aurora man and his friend July 29, 2001, in a parking lot near Destination in St. Charles.
Jonathan Nuyen, 32, was left with a fractured skull and permanent brain damage. His friend, Todd Henry, was punched in the face, but not seriously injured.
The defendants said they were defending themselves after Nuyen hit Jason Pavlak with his Mercedes-Benz. Pavlak, 24, of Elburn, was not injured.
While Circuit Judge James Doyle did not rule the defendants were defending themselves, he said the law did not require them to back down.
Nuyen's history of violence, as well as testimony that he was involved in arguments earlier that night, showed the judge the victim's state of mind.
"He's an aggressor, he's fighting and he's coming back to continue the fight," Doyle said.
Pavlak was convicted of misdemeanor battery and criminal damage to property for breaking a window of Henry's vehicle and punching Henry in the face after Nuyen hit him. Doyle ruled prosecutors did not prove the fight occurred in a public way, which would have made Pavlak eligible for the felony charge of aggravated battery.
Matthew Richardson, 24, of Elburn, was acquitted of all charges.
Pavlak and Zeitz are scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 17. Zeitz is likely to receive probation because he has never been arrested before, but could face one to three years in prison. Pavlak could face court supervision or up to one year in the Kane County Jail.
"We were pleased with the verdicts on Mr. Richardson and Mr. Pavlak," defense attorney David Camic said. "We were disappointed with the verdict on Mr. Zeitz. The judge called it as he saw it."
"It's the most complicated legal quagmire I've ever seen," Doyle said, explaining he had to determine who the aggressor was, if the aggressor withdrew from the fight, if anyone was acting in self-defense and whether anyone was trying to defend another person.
"I gotta tell you, I have never in my 31-plus years seen a case like this." Doyle has been a judge for 14 years, but was a lawyer and a police officer before that.
As he issued the verdicts, Doyle repeatedly lectured the defendants and the victims, saying they all had numerous opportunities to avoid the confrontation.
"Everybody here could have walked away," Doyle said. "Nobody chose to do that."
Alcohol and testosterone both were factors in the fight, Doyle said. Evidence showed Nuyen had a blood-alcohol content about three times the limit of .08 percent, but he thought all five men were either close to or over that limit.
The judge discounted the prosecutor's argument that Nuyen returned to the parking lot to help Henry.
"I don't believe for one moment that he knew what was going on at Todd Henry's car," Doyle said.
Nuyen could have been charged with drunken driving, aggravated battery and aggravated assault, Doyle said. Henry, also, could have been charged with drunken driving he said.
When Doyle issued the verdicts the defendants showed no reaction. Nuyen left the courtroom before the judge finished speaking. He also has filed a civil lawsuit against the defendants and Destination.