Mitchell man gets 8 years in prison for bar attackWilliam Watkins in tears as he receives sentence, ordered to pay $650,000 in restitution.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
A Mitchell man convicted of beating of a North Dakota man outside a Mitchell bar in September has been sentenced to a prison term and ordered to pay more than $650,000 in restitution.
William Henry Watkins, 34, pleaded guilty to the felony assault charge in December for the reportedly unprovoked attack of North Dakota resident Clint Dreyer, 36, in the parking lot of Thirsty’s Bar in Mitchell on Sept. 30.
Watkins cried and was remorseful in his comments to the court before his sentence was given by Judge Sean O’Brien at the Davison County Public Safety Center on Tuesday afternoon.
Watkins had his head in his hands even before being called to stand in front of O’Brien and hear his sentence.
“I’m sorry, Clint, I’m very, very sorry,” Watkins said in court Tuesday, while crying. “I’m not asking for forgiveness, I just want to take responsibility for my actions.”
With more than 30 people present, including family members of both Watkins and Dreyer, O’Brien sentenced Watkins to 13 years in prison, with five years suspended. Watkins was also ordered to pay all court costs and restitution for the victim’s medical bills, which now total $652,635.31, and are expected to rise as Dreyer continues to recover from the attack at a Sioux Falls hospital.
“I hope and pray that none of you will ever have to carry the guilt and shame of this nature, which I’m sure is nothing compared to the suffering I put the Dreyer family through,” Watkins told the court.
Dreyer’s mother, Vicki Hubner, read a prepared statement to the court before the sentencing.
“I’ve thought about this moment in court for almost five months now,” Hubner said. “As Clint’s mother, I will never forget the phone call I received and the image of Clint lying in the parking lot of Thirsty’s left to die.”
She called the crime a senseless and violent attack.
“We pray for justice to be served today,” Hubner said, in tears by the end of her statement.
Davison County State’s Attorney Pat Smith requested the court give Watkins the maximum sentence of 15 years and a $30,000 fine.
“For the safety of our community, for the message that needs sending, a maximum sentence is deserved,” Smith said.
But he said because of the apology letters Watkins wrote to the victim and his family and the remorse he showed for the crime, he would have no problem with a small part of Watkins’ sentence being suspended.
“His apologies were not full of excuses, but shame,” Smith said.
Justine Martin, Watkins’ mother, also read a prepared statement to the court.
“My son has been portrayed as a monster. He’s not a monster,” Martin said. “He got stupid, and now two people’s lives are ruined.”
Watkins’ defense attorney, Phil Carlson, of Mitchell, requested a suspended execution of sentence and also suggested an alternative punishment with no more than three years in prison with an extended period of probation, during which Watkins could begin paying restitution.
“My client has no excuses,” Carlson told the court. “He understands he is going to be paying for this for the rest of his life.”
O’Brien was solemn in his explanation of Watkins’ sentence.
“This is a sad day for everyone involved,” he said. “You nearly took a man’s life. I can’t think of any more serious of an aggravated assault than I have seen in this case.”
While O’Brien said he felt Watkins could be rehabilitated, other factors like medical expenses and the seriousness of Dreyer’s injuries had weighed more heavily in determining his final sentence.
A jury trial for the other man alleged to have assaulted Dreyer is scheduled for April.
Thomas Somerville, 38, of Mitchell, allegedly assaulted Dreyer inside Thirsty’s Bar prior to the assault by Watkins.
Somerville, a manager at Thirsty’s Bar, pleaded not guilty to the charge of simple assault in December.
Somerville could face one year in jail and a $2,000 fine for the misdemeanor assault charge.
Hubner filed a lawsuit in December against the parent company of Thirsty’s Bar, V.V. Inc., and its owner Doug Aslesen.
The lawsuit accuses Thirsty’s Bar of negligence and claims more than $75,000 in damages. The suit was filed in federal court and asks for a jury trial, according to court documents.
Other court documents show preparations for a trial could last until at least November if a settlement is not reached.