CROWN POINT | A Lake Criminal Court jury on Tuesday found a 23-year-old Crown Point man guilty of reckless homicide in a Thanksgiving Day slaying on the Crown Point square.
The seven-man, five-woman jury deliberated late into the night before convicting Jeffrey Nemcek in the stabbing of another Crown Point man, 26-year-old Brandon Huseman.
The reckless homicide conviction carries a sentence of probation to eight years in prison, said Kevin Milner, Nemcek's defense attorney.
Nemcek also was convicted of possession of a switchblade knife, a misdemeanor that carries a possible sentence of one year.
Milner said he was pleased with the verdict.
"He was found guilty of a lesser offense," Milner said. "The jury did the right thing. Justice was done."
Milner said he was aware many people were unhappy about the outcome.
Nemcek dodged murder and voluntary manslaughter convictions. Murder carries a possible sentence of 40 to 65 years, and voluntary manslaughter is 20 to 50 years.
Milner said the judge set sentencing for the end of September.
Lake County First Assistant Prosecutor Peter Villareal had no comment on the verdict Tuesday night.
Huseman was among a group of as many as eight people who were walking south on Court Street on the courthouse square in Crown Point when they encountered Nemcek about 1:35 a.m.
Nemcek was apprehended within 15 minutes of Huseman's stabbing but not charged until January.
Jurors were to determine how Huseman was mortally wounded after an altercation between Huseman's party and Nemcek.
Seven days of trial presented conflicting versions of the encounter. Deputy prosecuting attorneys Jamise Perkins and Monica Rogina sought to convince jurors that Nemcek alone was the aggressor, choosing to stab Huseman because he was the smallest of the three men with whom he had had a verbal exchange.
"He was carrying an illegal weapon," Rogina told jurors during closing arguments Tuesday.
Nemcek confronted the group and plunged a knife into Huseman, she said.
Testimony indicated the group had been drinking since about 7 p.m., but prosecutors argued the drinking did not meet the standard of legal intoxication.
Milner sought to persuade jurors that Nemcek stabbed Huseman in self-defense while under attack by the men, who had been made aggressive by their drinking.
"No one would stab someone like this for no reason," Milner told jurors.
It happened during a struggle, he said.