Judge orders prison time in gas station attack

A 64-year-old Las Vegas man was sentenced to between six and 15 years in prison Thursday for spraying another man with gasoline and setting him on fire at a Circle K.

Patrick Newell apologized to District Judge Jerome Tao before being sentenced. His lawyer, Scott Coffee, said Newell wanted to apologize directly to the victim, Theodore Bejarano, but he did not appear in court.

“This got out of control, but Newell certainly didn’t go to Circle K that night looking for a fight,” Coffee said. “We’re disappointed in the sentence.”

At trial, jurors watched surveillance video from the south Las Vegas Boulevard gas station in October 2012 that showed Newell igniting a lighter on Bejarano’s gasoline-soaked shirt before a flash of fire engulfed Bejarano.

Prosecutors argued that Newell had grave intentions, and that he continued to threaten then 35-year-old Bejarano with a knife even after he was burned.

“The acts the defendant committed were very egregious, and we’re happy that the punishment fit the crime,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Hetty Wong said.

In June, a jury found Newell guilty of battery with a deadly weapon, attempted assault with a deadly weapon and performance of an act in reckless disregard of a person or property, but cleared him of an attempted murder charge. The charge of an act in reckless disregard was dismissed because it was redundant to the battery.

Tao ordered Newell to serve six to 15 years on the battery, along with a concurrent sentence of two to five years for the attempted assault.

Newell was given credit for the 468 days he served in the Clark County Detention Center but likely will serve more than four years in prison before being eligible for parole.

Newell testified during the trial that he was afraid of Bejarano, who pestered him several times for a ride home on the night of the attack. Newell said he repeatedly asked Bejarano to leave.

Prosecutors acknowledged that Bejarano was “annoying” that night, but said Newell could have stopped engaging with Bejarano, walked away or left the gas station.

Bejarano suffered second-degree burns on 10 to 15 percent of his body, mainly on his left side and both arms. He was hospitalized for two weeks and placed in a medically induced coma.

Coffee said Newell was “accosted” by Bejarano, who was younger and stronger, and Newell quickly reached at the flames in an attempt to pat the fire.

“We’re obviously glad the jury saw that he wasn’t trying to kill this man,” said Coffee, who planned to appeal the conviction.

Contact reporter David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Find him on Twitter: @randompoker.