A Mission man who hit an Iraq war veteran with a beer bottle during a fight at a Lawrence house party in 2012 was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter late last week and plans an appeal of his conviction.
Bishop Miege graduate Justin P. Gonzalez, 23, was at a party on West 14th Street in Lawrence in the early hours of Feb. 25, 2012 when a fight broke out between his friend Jake Anderson and Iraq war veteran Nicholas Sardina, 27. Gonzalez told the court that he saw Sardina slam Anderson against a wall and punch him in the face. Gonzalez testified that he feared for Anderson’s life. Gonzalez took the bottle of Dos Equis he was drinking and smashed it over Sardina’s head in an effort to stop the two from fighting. Though Gonzalez reported that after the fight had ended the two of them shook hands, Sardina sustained serious injuries and died hours later from a blood clot in his brain.
A first trial in the incident ended in a hung jury in December.
“This was a difficult and tragic case. One family has to deal with the loss of a loved one and Mr. Gonzalez will have to live with the fact he took a life,” District Attorney Charles Branson said in a statement. “No matter the outcome of the second trial, we felt the community should decide this case.”
Sardina is originally from New York state. He served as a sergeant in the Kansas National Guard and did three tours in Iraq.
Gonzalez’s attorney, Sarah Swain, told the Lawrence Journal-World that they would appeal the verdict. Gonzalez faces a sentence that could range from probation to 34 months in prison.