Man found ‘not guilty’ in County Building assault

A jury of six men and women found James Sodek not guilty of second-degree assault yesterday in Circuit Judge Kathleen Watanabe’s courtroom.

Sodek was accused of cracking the back of a man’s head open with a belt buckle, which Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Lawrence Strauss alleged had been wrapped around Sodek’s hand with the buckle facing out.

The injury resulted in a 1.5 inch gash that had to be stapled closed.

Though he conceded his client caused the injury, there was more to the story, Ken Norelli, Sodek’s attorney, said.

Alluding to the Feb. 21 fight between Sodek and Philip Matheny, Norelli said the altercation in front of the Historic County Building was self defense — on the part of his client.

Norelli said that after “getting his drink on,” Matheny instigated the fight and that his client was defending himself.

Pointing to a gruesome photograph of the injury that Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Lawrence Strauss had displayed for jurors, an energetic Norelli asked, “Why do they keep throwing this up here? Is it kind of gory?

“Maybe they’re going to scare you into a conviction. That’s just a bloody mane of hair.”

Norelli said Matheny “lied repeatedly” and failed to tell police he had thrown a wine bottle at his client’s head — an inconsistency that should be enough to create doubts in their minds, he added.

“A statement given to police when the incident was fresh didn’t include anything about picking up a wine bottle or throwing a wine bottle,” Norelli said. “At the preliminary hearing there was no mention or discussion.

“This is important because James Sodek told police that he had to defend himself when (Matheny) threw a bottle at his head and was chasing him.”

Sodek had been imprisoned since February.

Despite the fact that several homeless loiter and live at the Historic County Building, a problem area when it comes to arguments and assaults, Norelli said his client is not homeless.

Another of Norelli’s clients was sentenced yesterday to five years with credit for time served in connection to another February fight that occurred in front of the Historic County Building.

Orlan Tesch, 53, pleaded guilty June 7 to second-degree assault for stabbing another man in the chest Feb. 8.

That case was originally charged as second-degree attempted murder, but was later reduced.


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