CROWN POINT | Lake Criminal Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. sentenced a Crown Point man to more than eight years in prison for the fatal stabbing of a man on Crown Point's courthouse square last Thanksgiving Day.
Stefaniak's ruling came down at the end of a nearly three-hour sentencing hearing for 23-year-old Jeffrey Nemcek, convicted last month in the death of Brandon Huseman, 26, also of Crown Point.
Acquitted of murder and voluntary manslaughter, Nemcek was found guilty of reckless homicide, a felony, and possession of a switchblade, a misdemeanor.
Stefaniak handed Nemcek a sentence of 2,865 days -- about seven years, eight months.
The sentence is just short of the allowable maximum of eight years on the felony charge. He was also given 180 days on the misdemeanor charge. Stefaniak ordered the sentences to be served consecutively, bringing the total time to be served to 3,045 days, or about eight and a half years.
Stefaniak prefaced his more than 20-minute ruling by describing the killing as a sad, unfortunate situation for all involved.
He rejected most mitigating factors cited by defense attorney Kevin Milner, who proposed a three-year suspended sentence for Nemcek, arguing the state's prosecution ignored evidence produced at trial.
Deputy prosecuting attorney Jamise Perkins made an impassioned plea for hard time for Nemcek, citing his past trouble with the law and the hardened attitude displayed in jailhouse phone calls reviewed in open court during the hearing.
Perkins said Nemcek's assurances about going home on probation indicated he thought "he could kill someone and go home."
Perkins argued Nemcek showed a violent streak as evidenced by kicking a jail correctional officer in the face. She cited a history of alcohol and substance abuse.
In his ruling, Stefaniak agreed Nemcek's taped remarks showed a "cold-bloodedness" and "disdain," and his past adjudications, though mostly as a juvenile, indicated an unwillingness to "follow the rules."
Huseman's father and Nemcek's mother had each presented emotional appeals to the court.
Huseman's father asked the court to send a clear message regarding the "softening of expectations" in society.
He expressed his family's grief and anger through frequent quotes of scripture and extolled his son's many virtues.
"Evil is evil is evil," he said of Nemcek's conduct in contrast.
Nemcek's mother pleaded for leniency for a son she described as shy, quiet and independent.
"I feel bad for everyone involved, but my son was protecting himself," she told the court. "We feel terrible for what happened.
But Stefaniak said while there was conflict over whether Nemcek had been struck by members of Huseman's party before or after the stabbing, there was no argument that Huseman had been brutally stabbed.