LAPORTE | Prosecutors and the defense were close to striking a deal before a court hearing Friday in a case involving the 2011 death of a 17-year-old Chicago boy from a punch allegedly thrown by the defendant in Long Beach.
Both sides couldn't quite come together before asking the April 1 trial date for 20-year-old James Malecek be pushed back.
LaPorte Circuit Court Judge Tom Alevizos granted the request and rescheduled the trial for June 3.
LaPorte County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Rob Neary said the hope is for both sides to resolve the case before having to go to trial.
Neary and other prosecutors along with defense attorneys Craig Braje of Michigan City and James Voyles of Indianapolis often huddled in the lobby and inside rooms outside the courtroom prior to the hearing.
"At one point, I think we thought we were close to an agreement and then it kind of fell apart at the last minute," said Neary.
Afterward, prosecutors met with numerous family members and friends of the victim, Kevin Kennelly Jr.
His father, Kevin Kennelly Sr., said he was satisfied with the efforts from prosecutors, who he felt were standing up against efforts by the defense to get Malecek off the hook lightly.
"An act of extreme violence took the life of my son," said Kennelly, who resides in Chicago and has a summer home in Long Beach.
"For a year and a half they have come up with various blame the victim strategies. Assertions that there were no credible witnesses," said Kennelly.
Braje declined requests for comment.
Malecek is charged with Class B felony aggravated battery along with involuntary manslaughter and battery, both Class C felonies.
Malecek, whose family also has a summer home in Long Beach, is accused of punching Kennelly during a July 4 beach party at 2611 Lakeshore Drive.
An autopsy found Kennelly was struck in the head causing brain death.
According to police, Kennelly may have been trying to break up an altercation when hit by a punch allegedly thrown by Malecek, who might have been a target of racism prior to the fight.
Malecek is of Korean descent.
Kennelly said his son did not know Malecek and was on the beach with some friends when they noticed some friends at the party and made their way over.
He said nothing will bring his son back or make him happy but felt a 10-year prison sentence would be fair.
Neary said pushing the trial back to June will allow more time for plea negotiations and is more convenient for witnesses to the altercation to testify because most of them are college and unable to break away from their campuses until summer break.
Neary would not disclose specifics of the resolution that both sides were trying to hammer out.
"All I can say is that we're fairly close to reaching an agreement that both parties are able to live with and hopefully we can resolve the case short of going to trial," said Neary.