A man accused of breaking the skull of a former University of Colorado student in 2009 during a Labor Day weekend fight was sentenced to six months of jail and seven years of probation Monday.
Kory Thomas White, 24, will be allowed to enter into a work-release program as part of his jail sentence, Boulder District Judge Maria Berkenkotter ruled, so that he can make restitution to Donald McKillop-Lopez.
White pleaded guilty late last year to second-degree assault for striking McKillop-Lopez on the head with a blunt object during a fight on Sept. 7, 2009, fracturing his skull and leaving him with a subdural hematoma. McKillop-Lopez, 25, ended up undergoing brain surgery and was comatose for several days after the attack.
He told the judge Monday that he can no longer hear out of one ear and has severe ongoing psychological and physical issues, including having to deal with everyday pain. McKillop-Lopez said he gave up on attending law school because of his injuries.
"Every day when you wake up and suffer with depression you didn't have before -- just trying to live has become so difficult," he said.
White, of Pueblo, was originally charged with attempted second-degree murder in the fracas, but that more serious charge was dropped as a part of a plea deal.
Berkenkotter said there were too many conflicting witness accounts of exactly what happened that night to warrant giving White the 18-month prison sentence prosecutors requested. She noted that everyone was extremely inebriated and that excessive drinking formed the basis for what turned out to be a near-fatal confrontation.
Upon leaving the courtroom Monday, McKillop-Lopez voiced his displeasure with the sentence.
"That's the typical American justice system," he said. "Money rules all."
One of White's attorneys was Pamela Mackey, who represented Kobe Bryant during the basketball star's sex assault case.
McKillop-Lopez contended that White barged into his University Hill home and began picking a fight with him in his bedroom as he tried to go to sleep -- a fight that ended with the blow to the head. In a police report, investigators had theorized that White was jealous of McKillop-Lopez over a woman.
White countered that he had come to the home to alert McKillop-Lopez that McKillop-Lopez's sister was extremely drunk and needed his help. When White saw McKillop-Lopez and another man attacking his brother, he told the judge, he ran to his brother's aid and struck McKillop-Lopez.
"I would do anything to take it back," White, who also attended CU, told the judge. "It was never my intention when I entered Don Lopez's house to hurt him in any way."
He also said he never should have left the home before police arrived.
White pleaded with Berkenkotter that if he was given straight jail or prison time, he would be fired from his mechanical engineering job in Pueblo and be less able to pay restitution in the case.
"I welcome that opportunity to pay back monetarily at least some of what my actions took from Don and his family," he said. "Please allow me to make amends and to repair the damages to the best of my ability."
Prosecutor Tim Johnson said his office would soon file a request of restitution with the court. He said a final dollar amount hasn't yet been determined.
The most emotional testimony of the hearing came from McKillop-Lopez's mother, Dawneen McKillop, when she tearfully recounted her son's long road to recovery.
She told the court how devastated she was when she saw her son lying in bed at the hospital unresponsive and connected to a tangle of tubes and wires. She said the surgeon told her that her son would likely not survive.
"There are no words to describe seeing your son bloody and broken and hooked up to machines doing the work his body could no longer do," McKillop said. "I asked for a miracle because I knew that nothing short of a miracle would save him."
She described how the family essentially camped out in the intensive care unit while her son went from an unresponsive state to a state of recovery.
Berkenkotter ordered White to turn himself in to Pueblo County Jail this morning to begin serving his sentence.
He and his family declined to comment after the hearing.