Soldier is sentenced to three years in prison for stabbing at nightclub
Stars and Stripes December 13, 2004
WIESBADEN, Germany — The six-day murder trial of Army Pvt. Nestor K. Velazquez ended with a mother’s scream.
When the six-member panel sentenced Velazquez on Saturday night to the three-year maximum penalty for aggravated assault, Maria-Rita Scardino rose up and ranted at them, prosecution and defense lawyers said.
Before, outside of court, Scardino said she couldn’t understand how a man can receive so little time in prison for killing her 18-year-old son, Santo.
Maj. Meg Foreman, a prosecutor in the case, characterized the courtroom outburst as “quite the emotional end to a very long ordeal for all involved.”
Velazquez was found not guilty earlier in the day of unpremeditated murder, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Other lesser charges were options, but the panel chose aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
In addition to the three-year jail sentence, the panel included the forfeiture of all pay and allowances, reduction to the lowest enlisted grade and a dishonorable discharge. Velazquez, 19, already has spent nearly eight months in pretrial confinement, which will count as time served.
Santo Scardino died April 18 during a brawl in a popular Mainz-Kastel nightspot. Prosecutors said Velazquez let a fistfight turn into a knife fight that ended in the fatal stabbing of Scardino.
Defense attorneys acknowledged their client snuck a knife into the bar and later brandished it, but they said he pulled it out in self-defense because Scardino and his friends ganged up on Velazquez and another soldier. Because it was so chaotic and because a second knife was found — but later lost by German investigators — it’s possible Velazquez didn’t deliver the fatal blow.
Furthermore, the wife of a soldier with no ties to Velazquez testified that she saw another man at the scene drop the soldier’s knife and dart away.
The man was questioned by German authorities, but later released.