Cape teen sentenced for attacking disabled man

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

A Cape Girardeau man who used another man's prosthetic leg to attack him will spend the next six months in Cape Girardeau County Jail after pleading guilty Tuesday to misdemeanor assault.

Alexander S. Harris, 1204 Bloomfield St., attacked a disabled man in the parking lot of the victim's apartment building complex at 921 Hackberry St. in the early hours of Sept. 3.

The 18-year-old victim, born with half his right arm and leg missing, said Harris and a 16-year-old boy taunted him about his disability before the assault, according to the statement. The teen was cited into juvenile court in the attack.

A witness said Harris was the one who struck the victim.

Harris was originally charged with a felony assault, a hate crime, but in November he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of third-degree misdemeanor assault.

"We decided not to pursue the hate crime aspect of the case because we developed a doubt of whether or not it was a hate crime," Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle said.

Swingle said the defendant admitted to the assault but claimed it was based upon an exchange of insults between the parties, he said.

Another factor was a discrepancy between the victim's initial statement to police and court testimony, assistant prosecuting attorney Jack Koester said.

The probable-cause statement said that the victim stated one of the men struck him at least twice in the face, causing him to "black out" and when he regained consciousness he was on the ground being kicked and punched and that his leg was being used to hit him.

However, during the preliminary hearing the victim testified he remembered the prosthetic leg becoming dislodged but offered no direct testimony about being struck with it, Koester said.

"We decided to let the defendant plead guilty to what he admitted doing," Swingle said referring to the assault. "And we felt six months to serve in the county jail, which he received, was an adequate punishment for an assault that did not involve any serious injury and would have been a misdemeanor assault anyway had not been for the allegation it was done because the victim was handicapped."

The victim said in a written statement that the attack has left him feeling afraid about people around him and his friends and that he no longer trusts anyone.

335-6611, extension 127

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