The May case of a basebrawl at the Bickle/Schmidt ball fields south of town was continued Tuesday, as attorneys for both sides try to work out a plea deal.
Salvadore Benitez, Garden City, told District Magistrate Judge Richard Flax in the Ellis County Courthouse on Tuesday afternoon he would waive his right to a preliminary hearing.
Had the hearing taken place as scheduled, Ellis County Attorney Tom Drees would have presented evidence to show a crime was committed and that Benitez should be charged with aggravated battery in the May 19 melee that broke out at a slow-pitch softball tournament.
Addressing the court, Drees said he and the attorney for Benitez, Michael Giardine, Cimarron, have had some preliminary negotiations toward a plea agreement and that they’d like to keep that going. Drees, as is customary, has turned over to the defense all his evidence against Benitez.
Asked whether Benitez plans to plead to the charge, Giardine said the defense is working on gathering mitigating evidence. Flax set dates in mid-December, the 11th and the 13th, for the next appearance.
“This is our time to plea,” Giardine said. “If we can’t work something out, then obviously we go to trial.”
Drees said Benitez has no prior history, so a conviction could result in a prison sentence of anywhere from six months to 41 months.
“It’s very preliminary at this point,” Drees said. “We’ve had some preliminary talks.” Giardine is still gathering sworn statements from witnesses, he said.
There is video of the event, captured by a fan. A 34-second video posted to Twitter the day of the brawl shows about a dozen players on the infield pushing each other and running around. A man in an orange shirt is seen picking up another person and throwing him to the ground. Police have said the man’s arm was broken in the fall. The man in orange then kicked the man in the face before the two were separated by others. The man who was tossed to the ground then got up and used the man in orange before stopping and turning away.
The tournament was sponsored by the United States Specialty Sports Association, which rented the ball fields. The complex is managed by the Hays Recreation Commission.