A 26-year-old California man who admitted inflicting life-threatening injuries on a man he encountered a year ago outside a Stateline casino was sentenced Tuesday to probation and ordered to pay $17,350 restitution.
District Judge Dave Gamble sentenced Zachary Maurice Peck to 32 months in Nevada state prison, suspended, and placed him on probation for five years.
He pleaded guilty in October to battery causing substantial bodily harm, and faced up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Gamble declined prosecutor Maria Pence's request that probation include Douglas County Jail time.
Peck served one day in custody following the Dec. 11, 2011, attack on Paul Hoehne, 44, of Livermore, who testified Tuesday that he was at Lake Tahoe on a weekend trip with his 21-year-old son Shawn.
Pence showed a security tape video of the attack.
Peck told investigators he thought Hoehne wanted to fight, and since Peck was the largest member of his group, he punched the victim in the face.
After Hoehne fell to the ground, Peck punched and kicked him, according to witnesses, although he appeared to be unconscious.
Peck is seen on the tape straddling Hoehne, and punching him multiple times in the face. The victim could not defend himself.
Observers pulled Peck off the man, but he walked back to the victim and kicked him in the head with enough force to move Hoehne's limp body several inches across the sidewalk.
Hoehne testified Tuesday his doctor said he would have died if Peck had kicked him higher in the head.
"I understand Mr. Peck is a great guy and everything. The doctors told me if he had kicked a little higher, I'd be dead," Hoehne said.
Hoehne said he has undergone four surgeries since the attack, and has a fifth scheduled.
"My whole face is distorted," he said. "People don't stare, but they look at you. My eyes are out of alignment. Hopefully, they will straighten out."
The victim said he was laid up for three months.
"It took a big toll on my life, and my family. I try to deal with it, but I am sad and hurt inside. A lot of emotions come up," he said.
Shawn Hoehne suffered a concussion and said Tuesday he couldn't remember everything that happened.
"The worst thing was seeing my father like that. I feel like he (Peck) should have to suffer the consequences of his action," Shawn Hoehne said.
In arguing for prison time, Pence said 12-30 months would have an impact on Peck, but was "very short compared to the damage inflicted on two other persons."
Peck, who has no prior criminal record, apologized to the victims.
"That's the first time I saw the video. I can't begin to express how sorry I am. I am shocked I did that. I am disgusted with myself," Peck said, facing the Hoehnes. "I hope that somewhere down the road, you can find it in your heart to forgive me."
With a felony, Peck said he would be ineligible for hire by the FBI, CIA or National Security Agency, professions for which he studied at Santa Clara University, Hult International Business College in London, Stanford, and military leadership schools.
"He is a well-educated young man who attained high honors," said his lawyer, Gene Drakulich of Reno.
Drakulich said Peck had been involved since he was a teenager in Special Olympics programs in Half Moon Bay, Calif., where he lives with his family.
He said following the incident, Peck had obtained his contractor's license and was building up a business.
Drakulich said Peck's family had offered to pay all of Hoehne's lost wages, and that of his wife.
Drakulich said Peck was undergoing counseling, and had determined that the assault was caused by a combination of alcohol and depression.
Gamble said the sentencing was difficult because Peck's behavior was out of character, but "there was just dramatic damage done to this other young man."
"Do you just recompense the victim, whose injuries I can see here from 40 feet away, or exact your pound of flesh?" Gamble asked.
Peck said a day had not passed when he hadn't thought about what happened.
"I feel terrible about my behavior that night," he said. "I know I can't take it back, but I will dedicate myself to learning the reasons behind my behavior."
Gamble said in sentencing he weighs punishment, deterrence and rehabilitation, and in this case, "the horrific damage done to Mr. Hoehne that could easily have resulted in death, and means more medical procedures."
He said he also considered Peck's life before and after the incident.
Following a short break, Gamble said he wasn't going to send Peck to prison. He also ruled out jail time as part of probation.
Gamble said it would serve as punishment, but would mean Peck was unable to make restitution while incarcerated.
He put Peck on five years probation, ordered him to continue with counseling, and abstain from drugs and alcohol.
He forbade Peck from any contact with the Hoehnes.
"Mr. Hoehne indicated he did not hate him (Peck)," Gamble said. "That's the most significant thing that happened today."
Pence asked Gamble to consider jail time.
"I've imposed the sentence," Gamble said. "I considered it (jail time), and rejected it."
Peck was given credit for one day in custody. Gamble ordered him to remain in Nevada until he has arranged probation supervision in California.
After the sentencing, Pence and Hoehne said they were disappointed.
"With the severity of the crime, and what I have to deal with the rest of my life, I feel like he needs to be held responsible for his action, and just probation doesn't accomplish that," Hoehne said.
"I don't hate him, I have no bad feelings, but I have a son myself, and taught him he needs to be responsible for his behavior. (Peck) needs to be held accountable," he said.