Plea deal ignored

A substitute judge sentenced the final defendant charged in the beating of an MGM Grand employee to prison Monday despite an agreement between the prosecutor and defense attorney to a sentence of probation.

Asryen Brown, 19, received a two- to five-year sentence Monday after pleading guilty last year to one count of battery with substantial bodily harm for his part in beating MGM exterior maintenance supervisor Richard Markwell Jr. on Easter weekend in 2006.

Video of the attack was broadcast nationally.

"Half the United States saw what happened on the April 2006 date, when a mob of people attacked an innocent person," said Senior District Judge James A. Brennan. Brennan was substituting for District Judge Dave Barker, who is attending a two-week course at the judicial college.

Brennan said that in the 60 years he has lived in Southern Nevada, he never before had seen "mob conduct like that."

"It's like a pack of wild animals attacking," he said.

The judge said such behavior is not to be tolerated, particularly in a tourist community. "He assaulted the victim by hitting him with a belt," Brennan said.

After the bailiff cuffed Brown and was preparing to take him to jail, however, Brown's attorney, Dayvid Figler, successfully argued for Brown to remain free on bail until a hearing could take place to determine whether the sentence violated the terms of Brown's plea deal.

The handcuffs were taken off, and Brennan scheduled a hearing for Aug. 13, during which attorneys will discuss whether Brown should be allowed to withdraw his plea.

Brown agreed to testify against his co-defendants and took the witness stand for the prosecution in Jamar Rice's trial. Rice was found guilty of nine felonies and two gross misdemeanors in crimes committed that weekend by groups of young people in a handful of robberies and beatings across the valley.

In exchange for Brown's testimony, prosecutor Victoria Villegas agreed to recommend a punishment of five years' probation. If Brown were to complete that probation successfully, he would get his felony conviction reduced to a gross misdemeanor, according to the agreement.

Judges, however, have the final say on sentences and do not have to abide by attorneys' negotiations.

Figler said he intends to argue at the August hearing that Brown could not receive the gross misdemeanor he was promised after completing probation if he's sent to prison for the felony.

"The judge called him a wild animal, which was not appropriate," Figler said after the sentencing.

He and Bunin emphasized Brown's remorse for the beating and cooperation with detectives from the beginning of the case. "Without ever knowing the police knew his name, Mr. Brown turned himself in," Bunin said.

Brown, who played a lesser role than other defendants who were convicted of committing other beatings and robberies that weekend, risked his own safety when he testified against Rice, he and Figler said.

"This is his first contact with the law," Figler said.

The Markwell family attended the sentencing, as they have for every other defendant involved in the melee that left Markwell, 24, with a permanently disabled right arm.

Markwell declined to speak at the sentencing.

Afterward, he said he believed Brown should be held responsible for his role in the beating. But if he fulfilled his part in the plea deal, Brown should get probation, Markwell said.

"Honestly, I'm just ready for this to be over," he said.