WAKEFIELD — A 25-year-old Westerly man charged with manslaughter in the 2017 death of John Gardiner will have one last chance to take a plea deal before the case heads to trial.
Kristy dosReis, public information officer for the Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General, confirmed that defendant Alexander J. Brown is scheduled to appear before Superior Court Associate Justice Melanie Wilk Thunberg in Washington County Superior Court this afternoon for a disposition hearing.
Disposition hearings, more commonly known as sentencing hearings, are usually held after a conviction or in cases where an individual chooses to plead guilty or accept a plea deal. It was unclear whether there was an agreement regarding Brown, who was scheduled to go to trial on Oct. 15.
"If there is not a plea, the trial is scheduled to start on Oct. 15," dosReis said in an email.
Brown, of Ashaway, is charged with manslaughter and disorderly conduct after the police said Gardiner suffered fatal injuries on July 30, 2017, following a confrontation between the two in the parking lot of Main Street Plaza.
Gardiner, a resident of School Street in Westerly, suffered "multiple trauma to the head" in the 2:30 a.m. incident, according to an autopsy report. Westerly police said the encounter, which was estimated to be approximately 15 seconds long, was captured on video and showed Gardiner brush Brown as the two were between two cars in the parking lot, and then begin walking away. Brown turned and struck Gardiner, who immediately fell.
Brown eventually entered a not guilty plea to both charges in March 2018 and elected to take the case to trial. After initially waving his right to a jury trial, Brown was scheduled to have the case heard before Thunberg, but he changed his mind on Aug. 13, the day the trial was scheduled to begin, and instead elected to have the case go before a 12-member jury.
Brown's attorney, Louis B. Cappuccio Jr., expressed his client's change in preference before Thunberg in August, acknowledging that his client would not have a chance to change his mind a second time.
"We recognize that this matter was scheduled to proceed by way of a jury-waived trial. My client would like to exercise his right to a jury trial; we believe that is the way it ought to proceed," Cappuccio said during the August hearing.
The prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Trovato, said that Brown had twice rejected a plea bargain of a sentence of 20 years, with seven years to serve.
A message left for Cappuccio was not returned Monday.