Zachary Kenneth Allen in trouble after assault

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Zachary Kenneth Allen in trouble after assault

Post by InfinityLens on Thu Mar 30, 2017 11:35 am

ST. PETERSBURG — A University of South Florida engineering student got into a fight with three men on St. Patrick's Day. One punched him. The student fell and hit his head on the pavement outside Detroit Liquors, at the corner of Central Avenue and Second Street downtown.

Now he lies in the hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Police spent a week trying to track down who hit Brian Neal, 26, who is in his third year of studies. They found surveillance video and spread it on social media.

Tips from Facebook and phone calls led them on Wednesday to interview, then arrest, Zachary Kenneth Allen, 23, of Largo.

He is perhaps the last person a college student would want to tangle with.

Allen is a mixed martial arts fighter, police say. He was featured in Facebook ads last fall for an event called "Fight to Win" that took place at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

Because Allen is an experienced fighter, the courts may treat him differently from an average person in a similar situation would be treated, legal experts say.

Prosecutors "could allege that his hands are deadly weapons," said longtime Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender Bob Dillinger.

While the law itself doesn't address the issue, standard instructions in such cases say jurors "may take into account the relative physical capabilities and capacities" of the two fighters, noted Clearwater defense lawyer Denis deVlaming, a former prosecutor.

When dealing with a defendant such as Allen, "it's not the same as two schoolhouse kids flailing away at each other," deVlaming explained. "It becomes something disproportionate. … It ain't a fair fight."

A jury is likely to say that a mixed martial arts fighter does have a heightened duty to be careful about when and where he hits someone "because of his training," deVlaming said.

However, that may not lead to a conviction.

In 2012, a onetime mixed martial arts competitor who single-handedly beat up two pool service workers in a Broward County road rage incident was charged with three counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon — namely, his hands.

Fernando Rodrigues, a former U.S. Marine and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert who had disarmed one of the pool service workers, turned down a plea deal and instead went to trial, claiming self-defense. A jury acquitted him.

Allen faces a charge of aggravated battery with great bodily harm. That's a second-degree felony for which a defendant might receive a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

However, Allen appears to have no prior criminal record, so if he is convicted, the penalties are likely to be much lighter.

The victim's mother, Edith Neal of Webster, said the family did not wish to make any public statements at this time.


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