PATERSON, N.J. – An 18-year-old Paterson man was sentenced to a plea-bargained three years in a state juvenile prison Friday for sucker-punching a defenseless man on a city street, in a "knockout game" incident that went viral after it was posted on YouTube.
Kristian Gonzalez must serve at least 2½ years of the sentence, under the No Early Release Act, before he can be eligible for parole. Because he was 17 when originally charged, he must serve his time in a Juvenile Justice Commission facility, under state law.
Superior Court Judge Ernest M. Caposela also ordered Gonzalez to pay nearly $1,500 in restitution to the victim, Cesar Najera for medical bills and lost wages.
Najera, 38, expressed his gratitude to law enforcement during Friday's sentencing.
The viral video shows Gonzalez walking up to Najara on a street corner in the Rosa Parks neighborhood last December.
Egged on by a 16-year-old friend recording video on a cellphone, Gonzalez punches the unsuspecting Najara in the head, knocking him out.
Najara was later treated at a local hospital for injuries that included a cut lip.
The younger teen quickly turned himself in to police when the story broke. That case was still pending in the Family Division of Superior Court.
Gonzalez later agreed to allow that his case be waived from the Family Division to adult criminal court.
During an August plea hearing, he “admitted under oath that he did not know Mr. Najara, that the attack was not in self-defense, that his intent was to cause Mr. Najara serious bodily injury, and that he knew the blow rendered the Mr. Najara unconscious,” Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes said.
Handling the case for the government was Chief Assistant Passaic County Prosecutor Jason Harding.
Gonzalez, who was returned to an Essex County juvenile detention facility after the sentencing, also must serve three years of parole supervision after he's released -- a violation of which could put him back behind bars for the full term of the sentence.
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