WEST BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP (AP) – Nine years ago, Desmon Venn threw a single punch at a high school classmate and put him in a coma.
Venn pleaded guilty to assault, spent two months in a boot camp and presumably thought he had paid his debt to society.
Last month, though, a new bill arrived.
Prosecutors brought involuntary manslaughter charges against Venn after the victim finally died without ever having regained consciousness.
Venn, now 26, could get up to 15 years behind bars in the death of Zuhair Pattah.
Venn’s lawyer, Elbert Hatchett, said the charges violate Venn’s constitutional protection against double jeopardy, or being prosecuted twice for the same crime. He also said the state’s six-year window for filing an upgraded charge after such a crime has long since slammed shut.
“When they elected to prosecute him then, they forfeited the right to prosecute him thereafter for the same behavior,” Hatchett said.
John Skrzynski, an Oakland County assistant prosecutor who has handled the case from the beginning, said there is no double jeopardy because Pattah’s death generated a new crime, which also rules out any statute-of-limitations argument.
But Skrzynski, who successfully prosecuted assisted-suicide proponent Jack Kevorkian for murder in 1999, said: “This is not an easy case. It’s a very difficult case. It’s a very sad case.”
Pattah was 16 and Venn 17 when Venn punched him between the eyes during a melee in the parking lot of West Bloomfield High School in 1994.
Pattah fell backward, hitting his head on the pavement with such force that his brain stem was severed.
In 1995, Venn pleaded guilty to misdemeanor aggravated assault. In addition to serving time in boot camp, he received two years of probation and was fined $1,000.
On Jan. 8, however, Pattah died at age 25 of what the medical examiner listed as complications from the head injury.