NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The New Orleans man who punched a tourist in the Marigny, leaving him paralyzed, struck a plea deal and won't spend any time behind bars. Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro and defendant Christopher Smith spoke exclusively to FOX 8 about the case.
"I'm just very sorry. If this guy can hear me now, hear my voice, Mr. Doug, I'm just very sorry," Smith said Wednesday. "It doesn't match my character, I'm a good guy," Smith said.
Surveillance video from Oct. 15, 2015 shows 65-year-old Doug David, a California native, crossing a Marigny street and then throwing a beer car at Smith's car. He later said the vehicle nearly hit him. Smith got out of the car and punched David twice, knocking him to the ground.
Initially charged with felony second-degree battery, the charge was downgraded to simple battery. The D.A.'s office asked for jail time. Instead, Smith received a six-month suspended sentenced.
"When you consider the circumstances of this case, I certainly think it's some very serious consequences the victim suffered as a result of being battered by the defendant," Cannizzaro said. "That's the call the judge makes, and we have to accept that call."
One of the reasons for the downgraded charge was there was no victim or witness testimony. According to the D.A., David chose not to come to New Orleans to testify because it would have been a hardship on his health. Had he chosen to come, it would have cost the D.A.'s office $60,000 to bring him here.
"Under the laws of Louisiana, it does not allow for the video recording of a witness, of this type of witness, this is the victim," Cannizzaro said.
David's caretaker told FOX 8 that he was not on board with the plea deal, which also calls for Christopher Smith to serve two years probation and perform 100 hours of community service. The judge asked that he speak to young people about the consequences of actions.
At a time when the D.A.'s budget is being slashed by the City Council, Cannizzaro said this case shows how imperative it is for his office to have proper funding to be able to fly in witnesses. Although David chose not to testify, the D.A. said his office often has to fly people in from around the country, and sometimes, the world.