Archive for Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Witnesses: Fight not hate crime

July 29, 2003


Jeff Medis now knows who slugged him during an early-morning scuffle last winter outside the Replay Lounge.

It was a blow that left him with a broken nose, broken upper and lower jaws, a fractured eye socket, a concussion and a gash on his chin that took six stitches to close.

Luke Wells testified Monday he hit Medis once because Medis was "interfering with my space" and had thrown errant punches at him and at his friend, Nikolaus Eichman.

Though police never categorized Medis' Dec. 6 beating as a hate crime, there was suspicion on the part of his family members that Medis was attacked because of his homosexuality.

In court Monday, Wells denied it had anything to do with the assault.

"I felt threatened," Wells said.

Wells is not charged with hitting Medis, who apparently suffered the injuries from a single punch and subsequent fall. Instead, Wells was in court testifying against Medis' friend, John Thomas Simmons, who's charged with hitting Eichman, Bill Roe and two of Eichman's fraternity brothers, Marty McSorley and Ryan McAtee, after Medis was knocked unconscious.

Douglas County Dist. Atty. Christine Kenney has said a decision on whether to file charges against Medis' assailant would not be made until after Simmons' trial.

Medis has said he could not remember what happened that night.

In exchange for his testimony Monday, Wells was granted immunity with the understanding that nothing he said on the stand would be used against him but that he could be charged later.

Testimony of events

Prosecutor Angela Wilson asked Wells, Eichman, Roe, McSorley, McAtee and three other witnesses -- Patrick Johnson, Joel Broxterman and Laura Sullivan -- if Medis' homosexuality was a factor in the assault. Each said no.

According to the group's testimony, Wells, Eichman, Johnson and Roe left the Red Lyon Tavern, 944 Mass., about 1:15 a.m. and were outside the Replay Lounge next door, waiting for a designated driver to take them back to the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity house when Medis and Simmons came out of the Replay Lounge, accused them of acting stupid and told them to leave.

Wells, Eichman, Johnson and Roe testified that Johnson was dancing a jig atop a concrete planter outside the Replay Lounge and the others were chanting his name. Each of the four said they told Medis and Simmons that the group didn't want trouble and would be leaving as soon as their ride arrived.

But Simmons, they said, took two swings at Roe -- one missed, the other glanced off Roe's cheek -- and Medis threw a punch at Eichman and missed.

Within seconds of Wells' punch and Medis hitting the ground, McSorley arrived in his two-door, 1986 Chevrolet Blazer to take Wells, Eichman, Johnson and Roe back to the fraternity. Also in the Blazer were Sullivan, Broxterman and McAtee, whom McSorley had picked up minutes earlier at another bar.

Simmons, they said, rushed the vehicle and hit McAtee, who was sitting in the passenger seat, and McSorley, who was in the driver's seat. McAtee suffered a gash on his lower lip that he said took seven stitches to close.

Defense questioning

Questioned by defense attorney Martin Miller, Eichman, Johnson and Roe said they'd each had between four and seven beers that night. Wells said he'd had one mixed drink and two beers, though one of the beers was a 32-ounce schooner. All four said they were not intoxicated.

Wells is not a Phi Kappa Theta member. He was with the group because he and Eichman are friends. Both are from Wamego.

Miller asked each of the fraternity members whether they had discussed their testimony among themselves. Each said no but admitted there had been a meeting at the fraternity in an attempt to curb members from spreading rumors about the altercation.

Miller also questioned Lawrence Detective M.T. Brown about why none of McSorley's passengers were detained or questioned by police at the scene -- a scene that included Medis lying unconscious on the sidewalk -- and why Brown waited more than a week to contact them.

Brown said officers at the scene had McSorley's name and address and as well as information taken from the vehicle's registration papers. They were released, he said, in an effort to defuse a tense situation.

Brown, Medis and Simmons are expected to testify today.

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