Ex-college basketball coach avoids jail for fatal punch

Published 10:21 am Friday, July 24, 2020

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NEW YORK (AP) — A former men’s college basketball assistant coach was sentenced Thursday to three years of probation, community service, and a fine for fatally punching a man in New York City who pounded on his car’s window.

Former Wake Forest assistant coach Jamill Jones, 37, was sentenced in a Queens court video conference to probation, 1,500 hours of community service and a $1,000 fine.

Jones, for the first time, apologized to the victim’s family and spoke through tears while addressing the court, the News & Observer reported.

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Jones, of North Carolina, was convicted in February of misdemeanor assault for the punch that killed 35-year-old Sandor Szabo in August 2018.

Szabo, who had earlier in the day attended a family wedding, was walking in Long Island City at night when he banged on the rear window of the vehicle Jones was in, according to the office of Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.

Jones followed Szabo, exited the vehicle, and punched him once in the face. Szabo fell to the ground and hit his head on concrete, according to the news release from Katz’s office.

Szabo died two days later at a hospital.

Jones testified at his trial that he hit Szabo in self-defense and to protect his then-fiancée, who was with him.

“This was a tragic incident that ended the life of a man and devastated his family, a violent run-in that should never have happened,” Katz said in the release. “Violence is never the answer to settling a dispute.”

Szabo’s family members spoke to the court Thursday, all criticizing New York state laws that precluded prosecutors from charging Jones with a felony, according to the News & Observer.

“He will always be a murderer, a coward,” Szabo’s mother, Donna Kent, said in court. “I believe that if you were the good person you say you are, we wouldn’t be here today. It is said that time heals all wounds. I disagree; 718 days have passed, and nothing has gotten easier.”

Jones resigned last year from his position with the Wake Forest basketball team.

“I have dealt with this day in, and day out. I’ve lost my career, my family,” Jones said in court. “But the one thing that I’ve lived for every day is that I pray for this family. I pray that this family at some point can have peace.”