It was a deal that neither the victim's nor defendants' families liked. But each side agreed the compromise was the right outcome for everybody.
In a plea arrangement with prosecutors, two men on Thursday were sentenced in a Torrance courtroom to state prison terms for last spring's beating death of a Redondo Beach bar bouncer.
Francisco Cobarruvias, 35, was ordered spend six years in prison, and Rene Anthony Avina, 23, to serve 11 years for the June 2 fight outside Pats II Cocktails that resulted in the death of 49-year-old bouncer Terie Colecchi.
Cobarruvias and Avina risked sentences of 15 years to life in prison if they had gone before a jury on murder charges, so each agreed in December to plead no contest to voluntary manslaughter charges, which carried lesser prison terms.
"We'd rather have them gotten more time," said Colecchi's sister, Jamie Dudynsky. "Given all the circumstances, they could have walked away. It was better they got the time that was given to them. The whole thing has been hard.
A murder case was not as simple as it seemed following Colecchi's death. The men battled when Colecchi stopped Cobarruvias and Avina from entering the Pacific Coast Highway bar at 1:40 a.m.
Video surveillance showed Colecchi throwing the first punch during the skirmish, and Cobarruvias and Avina repeatedly punching and kicking him after he collapsed.
Both men took off, but were arrested in the following days.
Although the men might have used excessive force once Colecchi was down, Colecchi's medical condition and drug use were key factors in his death, authorities said. An autopsy determined Colecchi died of "hypertrophic heart disease" caused by other significant conditions, including the effects of methamphetamine use, blunt force trauma, and drug intake.
In layman's terms, the fight contributed to Colecchi's having a heart attack because of his drug use and enlarged heart, but the injuries from the beating he took is not what killed him.
"It was a classic case that called for a resolution," said Jeffrey Gray, Cobarruvias' defense attorney.
Deputy District Attorney Ethan Milius, who initially was prosecuting both men for murder, said a jury would have had to consider the heart condition and drug use when deciding whether to convict the men. Ultimately, a jury might have agreed with the negotiated plea deal - voluntary manslaughter.
"This was the equitable and just result," Milius said.
Gray contended Cobarruvias and Avina acted in self defense after Colecchi threw the first punch and bit Cobarruvias on the hand. An issue at trial, Gray said, was whether they went too far in the beating.
Colecchi's lifestyle and temper also could have become an issue at trial. Records show a dismissed methamphetamine possession charge in 2005, and that his sister, Cindi Colecchi, obtained a restraining order in 2003 to keep him away from her and their 81-year-old mother. The sister alleged Colecchi bit her ring finger and tried to strangle her during a dispute over the sale of their mother's house.
In the end, however, Colecchi, the father of an 8-year-old son, died because of the fight and might be alive if it hadn't occurred, Dudynsky said.
"I just wanted some closure," Dudynsky said. "I'm not happy. They committed murder, but what can you do? At least they are paying."
Dudynsky's husband, Adam, read a letter on her behalf in court, explaining the pain that her brother's death has caused the family.
"People say that things happen for a reason, but there will never be a good enough reason for what happened to Terie," the letter said. "It was cruel, vicious, unthinkable and brutal. No one deserves to die this way. ... For those of us alive we can only hope that he rests in peace."
Gray asked Judge Alan Honeycutt to recommend to the Department of Corrections that Cobarruvias spend his sentence in a prison close to Southern California because the Redondo Beach man has three children with no mothers. Avina's attorney, Christopher Glew, requested the same because the Riverside man's family also lives locally.
Avina received a longer sentence because of a previous assault conviction.
"This is a difficult situation," said Avina's mother, Adriana Avina. "We're all on the same page as saying condolences to the other family."
Follow Larry Altman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/larryaltman