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Insurance payoff sets stage for probation

David Mirhadi
Staff Writer

The family of assault victim Josh Harkins said they agreed to a monetary settlement and a lengthy probation sentence for their son’s attacker so that their son could rebuild his life.

The homeowner’s insurance policy of the family of attacker Patrick Cronan paid an undisclosed amount for full restitution of his injuries. In July 2007, Harkins’ mother said her son’s medical bills added up to more than $250,000.

“We decided it would be in Josh’s interests to have the money now … to take control of his life again,” the victim’s mother, Lou Ann Harkins, told The Union.

Cronan, 21, was sentenced to five years probation Thursday, and must complete the remainder of his 180-day sentence in the Nevada County jail before he is released.

Josh Harkins suffered brain damage and remains deaf in one ear after Cronan hit him on the back of the head with a skateboard at Condon Park in 2007.

Josh Harkins approached the court in August, accompanied by his mother and civil attorney Craig Diamond, and confirmed that he had reached a civil settlement for full restitution of his injuries and medical costs, according to a statement released Thursday by the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office.

The Cronans’ insurance company granted the settlement in part because the attack was not a premeditated act, the Harkins family said. Superior Court Judge Julie McManus accepted the settlement as balancing competing interests.

Without the deal agreed to by prosecutors, Lou Ann Harkins said it would have taken a lot longer ” perhaps years, once Cronan was released from prison ” to attain any settlement.

“What (Josh) really needs is to have money to get on with the future … so he can get back into the work force,” Lou Ann Harkins said. “It’s for him to be able to move on.”

Lou Ann Harkins said she will put her faith in Nevada County’s justice system that the authorities keep a close watch over Cronan, who is required to take anger-management classes, stay away from Condon Park and her son, and serve the remainder of his 180-day jail sentence under the terms of his plea agreement. As of Friday, Cronan has 92 days left in jail.

Should he violate any of those terms, he would be subject to three years in prison.

“They assured me that if he were seen with any violation, he will go back to jail,” she said. “We’re hoping (the authorities) will keep their word. We’re hoping that he’s learned something.”

Someday on his own

Lou Ann Harkins and her husband, Dan, said their son is living at home, and he wants very much to be independent and find gainful employment.

Without the settlement, that wouldn’t be possible, she said. She would not disclose the name of the insurance company that paid the settlement.

“My responsibility is to Josh,” she said. “I want to give Josh what he needs.”

Josh Harkins is nearly deaf in his right ear, he also suffered damage to his brain and skull, and was in a coma for more than a week after the attack. Josh Harkins was attempting to break up a fight when he was hit from behind by Cronan.

Stephen Munkelt, Cronan’s attorney, said his client’s sentence mirrored what the county probation department recommended in a December pre-sentencing report.

Munkelt called Cronan a “passive” young man who would not fare well in prison, where he would need daily monitoring of his diabetes.

“I think that granting him probation was always the right thing to do,” Munkelt said. Of the family’s desire to have his client avoid a lengthy prison sentence, Munkelt said, “I think that shows a level of maturity and understanding on (their) part.”

While Harkins was trying to break up a fight at the skate park, in which youths were threatening to urinate on another youth on the ground, Cronan admitting to coming up behind Harkins and hitting him on the back of the head, using the trucks of the board, according to court documents. Cronan said in an earlier court hearing he had been afraid of Harkins.

In July 2007, Cronan offered a plea agreement in the case, which Superior Court Judge Robert Tamietti rejected in favor of scheduling a jury trial.

Dan and Lou Ann Harkins said they hope their son may one day be able to be on his own, and the settlement they received will help with part of that.

“No amount of money or jail time will fix this,” Lou Ann Harkins said.

If he had his choice, Don Harkins said, he wished Cronan was charged with a more serious crime, such as attempted murder.

“I’m hurt inside, and I think people need to be held responsible,” he said.

The couple also said they were disappointed because they were not notified of Thursday’s sentencing by anyone involved in the case.

To contact Staff Writer David Mirhadi, e-mail dmirhadi@theunion.com or call 477-4239.

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