OAKDALE — A judge on Tuesday sentenced a 23-year-old man to 10 years in prison for stabbing a group of men with a fixed-blade knife a year ago at an Oakdale bar.
Benjamin Alexander Crouch of Oakdale pleaded no contest to three counts of assault with a deadly wea-pon. The district attorney's office dropped two additional counts of assault with a deadly weapon as part of a plea deal.
Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Marie Silveira, however, ordered the defendant to pay restitution to the victims in the two counts of assault dropped by prosecutors. The remaining felony charges had enhancements for causing great bodily injury. Crouch must serve 85 percent of his prison time.
Crouch was arrested about 1:15 a.m. Feb. 25 at the Battered Beaver bar, 108 N. Yosemite Ave., where the stabbings occurred.
Deputy District Attorney Merrill Holt prosecuted the case. Had the case reached a preliminary hearing and a trial, she told the judge that the evidence would have shown that Crouch was not acting in self-defense when he stabbed the men.
All of the victims were taken to hospitals but survived their injuries. The prosecutor said in court that they all still suffer from the effects of the attack. She said one of the victims underwent open-heart surgery because the blade nicked his heart.
A friend of some of those involved told The Bee last year that there had been a disagreement between Crouch and the victims earlier in the evening. They had been split up, but another confrontation occurred later.
Daniel Mila, one of the victims, spoke in court at Tuesday's hearing. The court allows victims and their families an opportunity to speak before a defendant is sentenced.
Mila said he has vivid memories of waiting in an ambulance and fearing he was bleeding to death, wondering whether his family knew where he was. He said he spent a month in a coma and a month in a hospital's intensive care unit while undergoing 11 surgeries.
"Long story short, your cowardly act has changed my life for the worse, not for the better," Mila said in court, standing a few feet from the defendant.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2394.