FAIRFIELD — A woman whose son died in a Fourth of July fight in Vacaville made an impassioned plea Thursday for justice at the sentencing of her son’s killer.
“I did not want vengeance. I only wanted justice,” a crying Kathleen Pierce said. “Justice is not being served in this case.”
Pierce reminded Judge Wendy G. Getty that her son, Tyler Grande, had been blindsided with one punch as he was trying to break up a fight that erupted during a July 4, 2012, street party.
Grande, 20, dropped to the street, hitting his head and losing consciousness. He never regained consciousness and died July 15.
Anthony J. Ruiz, 32, was arrested a month after the attack and charged with voluntary manslaughter. He faced a possible 11 years in prison. On the day his jury trial was set to start in March, Ruiz took a plea deal from the District Attorney’s Office, which will result in Ruiz spending less than a year in county jail.
“This is a joke,” Pierce said. “It was the actions of one person that did this.”
“Why would you hide for 30 days if you were innocent? He did not want to face the consequences of his actions. He knows he did it. He made a horrible decision that created a tragic event.”
Pierce expressed outrage that many people who saw her son dropped by Ruiz’s punch refused to come forward and talk with police.
“It sickens me people stand by and do nothing and are afraid of being labeled a snitch,” she said.
Ruiz had nothing to say at the hearing, which ended with Getty sentencing him to two years in jail for involuntary manslaughter, the minimum sentence. With credits for good behavior and for time served, Ruiz will be back out on the street in about 10 months.
Ruiz’s attorney told Getty her client believed he was acting in self-defense and faulted a probation officer who recently talked with Ruiz, who denied responsibility for his actions. The attorney also reminded Getty that Grande’s best friend, who saw the attacker, described him as looking very different from her client.
The prosecutor said he hoped the experience had helped Ruiz recognize he has a problem with alcohol. Getty agreed, saying the first thing Ruiz had done after killing Grande was go to a bar, that he was at a bar when he was arrested and that he picked up his second driving under the influence arrest while out on bail on the manslaughter case.
Getty told the despondent mother that she is always sad when someone feels that the justice system has failed them, adding that the justice system is not perfect.
Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.