Cronan pleads guilty to attack
A 20-year-old Grass Valley man accused of assaulting a man with a skateboard changed his plea to guilty Tuesday and faces a possible sentence ranging from probation to the maximum of four years in state prison.
“That’s bogus,” yelled the victim’s father, Dan Harkins, outside the courtroom in Nevada City. “My kid’s going to be affected for a long time. Four years is a joke.”
Assistant District Attorney Anna Ferguson charged defendant Patrick Cronan with felony assault with a deadly weapon after he knocked 25-year-old Josh Harkins unconscious during a fight at Condon Park skate park in Grass Valley June 7.
“Both of the boys’ lives are messed up,” Dan Harkins said. “We’re praying for both boys.”
Cronan initially pleaded innocent but changed his plea Tuesday.
“The DA investigators’ reports we received Monday gave us a much better basis for evaluating the case,” Cronan’s attorney, Stephen Munkelt, said. “Until then, there hadn’t been enough people who could say ‘I was there and I saw what happened.'”
It is legally possible for Cronan to receive a sentence of probation for his crime, Munkelt said. “That’s one of the things we’ll be looking at,” he added.
Medical bills mounting
Cronan attacked Harkins from behind as Harkins tried to break up a fight, witnesses told investigators.
A group of about 10 people had gathered around two boys lying on the ground, and someone was urinating on one of the boys, Harkins said Tuesday.
“I was standing there looking at these boys, and that’s the last thing I remember,” he said.
Harkins suffered damage to his brain, skull and ear and was in a coma for more than a week after the attack.
His mother, LouAnn Harkins, said her son’s medical bills add up to more than $250,000.
Harkins wore a neck brace Tuesday and said his brain was still swollen from the trauma he suffered from the assault. He’s lost the hearing in one ear, with the exception of a ringing sound, he said.
The near-death experience has changed his outlook on life, he said.
“I don’t hate anyone, and I don’t want any enemies,” Harkins said. “I don’t have any feelings about (Cronan). I do hope he gets what he deserves. I want the best for him, in a way.”
However, a maximum sentence of four years is not appropriate, he said.
“Four years is not long enough,” he said. “I’m going to be out of work for six years.”
September sentencing set
Assistant DA Ferguson said people often are surprised by sentencing standards, and she understands why the Harkins family is upset.
She did not charge Cronan with a more serious crime such as attempted murder, she said, because she “didn’t see the elements of attempted murder.”
“I don’t overcharge my cases,” she said. Prosecutors across the nation have been criticized for the practice, she said. Many overcharge to use the more serious charge as leverage in negotiating a plea.
“It’s unethical, I believe,” she said.
Cronan’s sentence will ultimately be up to Nevada County Judge Robert Tamietti, she said.
Cronan is incarcerated at Wayne Brown Correctional Facility in lieu of $75,000 bail. He appeared in court Tuesday with Munkelt, his parents and siblings.
Cronan’s sister, Tanya Cronan, 23, said her brother was most likely afraid of Harkins when he attacked him. She said the two men knew each other before the incident.
“He wouldn’t do it for no reason,” Tanya Cronan said.
She said her family supports her brother, whom she described as “the most loving person.”
Cronan is scheduled to be sentenced at 1:30 p.m., Sept. 10, in Nevada County Superior Court.
To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4236.
Veterans plan fundraiser
for assault victim
Who: Assault victim Josh Harkins’ medical bills have reached at least $250,000, according to his family.
What: “Have a Heart for the Harkins,” an afternoon of family fun organized by nonprofit organization Veterans for Veterans with music and barbecued Tri Tip sandwiches.
Where: The 49er Family Fun Park, 314 Railroad Ave., Grass Valley.
When: 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, July 15.
Tickets: No entry fee, $1 tickets for games the day of the event. Advance ticket packages are 15 tickets for $10.
Info: Gail at 49er Family Fun Park, 272-4949.
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