A former Wake Forest University assistant basketball coach faces a year behind bars after being convicted in the one punch death of a drunken tourist in Queens, New York.
Jamil Jones, 37, stared blankly ahead as the jury delivered a guilty verdict Thursday, convicting him in the assault that killed Florida resident Sandor Szabo, 35, in August 2018, the New York Post reported. Jones is scheduled to be sentenced some time next month.
The victim’s family cried tears of joy and consoled one another when the decision was read.
“I am so relieved it’s over,” said Donna Kent, Szabo’s mother. “I’m ready to sleep and move on. This has been my life for 18 months.”
Jones was charged with assault after slugging Szabo, 35, in the face for repeatedly banging on his SUV’s doors and windows in a drunken rage. Szabo, who was visiting from Boca Raton, Florida, had just left his stepsister’s wedding and was reportedly trying to locate his Uber driver.
Jones was reportedly with his girlfriend at the time of the incident and got out of his car to confront the unknown attacker. Authorities said he then followed Szabo to the sidewalk and socked him in the face, causing him to fall and hit his head on the pavement.
Jones sped off shortly afterward.
Szabo was taken to a local area hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries three days later. An attorney for the former college hoops coach called the incident a “tragic” mistake.
“This was a tragic accident, and Mr. Jones and his family send their deepest condolences and their thoughts and prayers to the Szabo family,” attorney Alain Massena told The Associated Press in 2018 after his client pleaded not guilty to the assault charge.
At his trial, a teary-eyed Jones took the stand and recalled the confrontation with Szabo, whom he had never met before that night. He painted the attack as a case of self-defense, saying he was only trying to protect his girlfriend.
The then-coach was attempting to park his girlfriend’s SUV on the street near the Courtyard Marriott Hotel when all of sudden “you heard was a loud, ‘boom!’ and the rear windshield started to fall in,” he said, claiming Szabo had busted his back window.
He said the impact left his significant other visibly frightened and crying. Meanwhile, the man outside came around to the passenger side and let out a big hearty laugh.
“When I see [my fiancée] and her face was in her lap and I see him on the passenger side, I said ‘I’m going to put myself between him and whatever comes that way,” Jones testified, according to PIX 11.
During direct examination, Jones acknowledged following Szabo up the street and assaulting him, even as Szabo tried to retreat.
Szabo’s family is grateful for the guilty verdict but is now pushing for New York state to pass tougher laws in cases of one-punch deaths.