Iraq War veteran gets up to 32 years for severe beating of man, 71, in Elko

ELKO — A Nevada judge has sentenced an Iraq War veteran to up to 32 years in prison for the severe beating of a 71-year-old Spring Creek man at an Elko car wash two years ago.

Elko County District Judge Michael Memeo sentenced John Fenton to the maximum on Thursday, rejecting pleas from his lawyer and family for leniency because Fenton suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Fenton was convicted in May of battery causing substantial bodily harm, burglary, robbery of a person older than 60 and grand larceny of a vehicle in connection with his attack on George Swett at the Buggy Bath car wash in September 2009.

Fenton was arrested after he was found bloody in the driver’s seat of Swett’s vehicle parked on the side of Lamoille Highway. Swett sustained broken orbital sockets around his eyes, substantial bruising around his head and bleeding on his brain.

Fenton’s lawyer, Alina Kilpatrick, said his family’s testimony made it clear Fenton was not a violent person until he returned from the war in Iraq earlier in 2009. She tried to persuade the judge to sentence him to an inpatient treatment center in Los Angeles for treatment of substance abuse and psychological problems associated with PTSD.

But Memeo said Fenton had been to other treatment facilities with little success. He said he was a danger to society.

“If treatment is unsuccessful there’s still a threat,” the judge said.

Earlier, when a photo on a courtroom projection screen showed Swett in the hospital with practically his entire head bruised and swollen, Memeo said:

“I didn’t know what being beaten to a pulp meant until I saw that picture.”

Swett’s wife, Judy, said he lost one quadrant of his vision because of the beating and continues to suffer from constant ringing in his ears.

“In my opinion, John Fenton tried to kill George,” she said in a statement. “A lesser man would likely not have survived the pummeling George endured at the hands of this brutal man.”

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