At the home he shares with his parents, Bryan Stow does his best, but he struggles. It's hard to move his left arm and that hand will barely close. He must wear a diaper, needs help to take a shower and has to be reminded why a plastic shunt juts from the base of his skull.
The members of Stow's family who addressed a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge Thursday wondered if the two men who attacked the paramedic and father of two outside Dodger Stadium in 2011 knew any of that, or if they cared.
Marvin Norwood and Louie Sanchez, both of Rialto, pleaded guilty to the unprovoked attack that almost killed the San Francisco Giants fan nearly three years ago — a crime that led to a temporary drop in Dodger attendance and provoked soul-searching about a sports rivalry gone terribly off base.
Norwood, 33, was sentenced to four years in prison by Judge George G. Lomeli after admitting Thursday to assault causing great bodily injury. In exchange, an earlier mayhem charge was dropped. Sanchez, 31, pleaded guilty to one count of mayhem in exchange for eight years in prison. He could have received 11 years in prison if convicted of the original charges.
The outcome offered little solace to Stow's relatives, who have been caring for him daily since he came home after spending the first two years of his recovery in hospitals and a rehabilitation facility.
"To say you got off easy is an understatement," said Stow's sister Erin Collins as she turned to face the duo at the defense table. "Because of you both, Bryan's life was nearly taken from him and will never be the same. That also goes for his children, our parents, my sister and I, all of our family and Bryan's friends."
Stow turned 45 on Feb. 12, and his family marked the occasion with a post on the blog they maintain to keep his supporters apprised of his progress. "When asked how old he is he claims 35," the post said. "We still can't tell if he's joking or not."
Many things have been taken from Stow, his family told the court. His son, Tyler, misses playing catch with his dad. His daughter, Tabitha, would like to go for a bike ride, but her father can't manage it.
"You took my children's daddy from them," Jacqueline Kain, the children's mother, said in a statement read in court. "Do you have any remorse?"
At the conclusion of the family's statements, Judge Lomeli sharply rebuked the defendants. His tone became even harsher when Sanchez, the attack's instigator, began smiling.
"Oh, you're smiling?" the judge snapped. "It's funny?"
"It's not funny," Sanchez responded.
"You don't respect the rights of individuals," Lomeli continued, calling the attack in Lot 2 outside Dodger Stadium "absolutely vicious" and the defendants "complete cowards" for sucker-punching Stow and then kicking him repeatedly in the head and torso as he lay on the ground.
"You show no remorse whatsoever, no remorse to the family, and that is also something that is unfortunate," Lomeli said, concluding that many sports rivalries, like the Dodgers versus Giants, provoke high emotions. "But it is a game, at the end of the day," Lomeli said. "You lost perspective."
Deputy Dist. Atty. Michele Hanisee, who prosecuted the case, said the defendants "got off easy," considering that "Mr. Stow is serving a life sentence in a wheelchair and diapers." But prosecutors said the sentences were close to the maximum possible if the duo had been convicted at trial and if they could not prove the intent to kill necessary for an attempted murder conviction.
Stow's ill-fated outing to Dodger Stadium came on opening day, March 31, 2011. Stow wore his Giants jersey that day, joined by several paramedic buddies from the Bay Area. But once they were inside the stadium, the group absorbed jeers and taunts from Dodgers fans.
Two Dodgers supporters — later determined to have been drinking and smoking marijuana after the game — accosted the Bay Area group with more insults. Witnesses said later that Stow retorted, to no one in particular: "I hope they code," shorthand for cardiac arrest.
Sanchez and Norwood pursued Stow and his friends, though the out-of-towners made it clear they did not want a fight. The paramedic was standing with his hands at his sides when one of the attackers punched him. Witnesses described the sickening sound of Stow's head cracking against the asphalt parking lot.
Norwood has already spent enough time in jail awaiting trial that, given state-mandated sentencing rules, he essentially has already served his time for the conviction. But his legal difficulties do not end with the assault case.
Both he and Sanchez had previous felony convictions, including one case each of domestic violence. When they were arrested in the Stow case, investigators found numerous weapons and the U.S. attorney's office charged both as felons in possession of firearms. Each faces up to 10 years in prison on the firearms charge, and authorities said they will transfer Norwood immediately into federal custody.
The case exacerbated already adverse public sentiment toward then-Dodgers owner Frank McCourt. Many fans said McCourt had ignored ample warning that parking lots did not have enough lighting or adequate security. Attendance swooned after the beating, dropping below 3 million for the season for the first time in 16 years.
Though now under new ownership, the Dodgers face a lawsuit filed by Stow and his family. The case, accusing the team's management of not adequately protecting fans, is set to go to trial by May.
Attorney Tom Girardi said the cost of Stow's care already has topped $5 million. He estimated it will cost another $34 million to tend to the victim for the rest of his life. The Stows' lawsuit also seeks punitive damages and payment for pain and suffering. (Girardi said McCourt's insurers, not the current team owners, would be liable for any damages.)
Girardi said Stow had been walking as much as 200 feet at a time at the height of his rehabilitation treatments. But insurance has now been reduced and he has regressed. The family didn't consider having the once ebullient victim address the court Thursday. He now speaks haltingly, just a few words at a time, Girardi said.
The Stows like to think about the better days, like the one last fall when the
Giants invited Bryan to
attend the last home game of the 2013 season. When he
saw his face pop up on the Jumbotron screen, Stow beamed. He got a kick out of meeting Giants players and staff, even kissing the hand of broadcaster Duane Kuiper, a former Giants' infielder.
"Seeing him surprised and so happy," the Stows wrote on their blog, "is something we will never forget."