Five years in jail for killer punch

  • Dejon Simmons was a bartender at Bolero restaurant on Front Street. (File photograph)

    Dejon Simmons was a bartender at Bolero restaurant on Front Street. (File photograph)

A footballer was jailed for five years yesterday after he caused the death of a young father when he punched him.

Rakeem DeShields, 26, attacked Dejon Simmons in an early morning incident near the Cosmopolitan nightclub on Front Street, Hamilton on March 18 last year.

The Supreme Court heard that the 30-year-old victim hit his head on the kerb.

Mr Simmons was knocked out by the impact and never regained consciousness.

DeShields, a PHC Zebras player, pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter in April and appeared for sentence yesterday.

Loxly Ricketts, for the Crown, told the court that an argument started between the two men and DeShields approached Mr Simmons “aggressively”.

He said the pair stood “chest to chest ... squaring up to each other” and DeShields punched the victim in the face and threw at least two more punches.

The court heard Mr Simmons, a bartender and father to a two-year-old boy, fell backwards and hit his head.

Mr Ricketts said officers performed first aid with help from members of the public.

He added: “It was further noted that the deceased had a gaping wound at the left side of his head which was bleeding profusely.”

Mr Simmons was rushed to the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital but died three days later in the intensive care unit.

Mr Ricketts read victim impact statements from members of Mr Simmons’s family, who said he was a devoted father and talented artist.

One said: “People have to suffer the consequences of their actions.

“As good as a person might seem to be, there is always that one incident that they should have thought about, that they should have walked away from.”

Another, from the victim’s brother, told how that Mr Simmons loved sport and had played football with a young Nahki Wells during neighbourhood practices.

He added: “My brother was working that night to take care of his family. He didn’t deserve to die.”

Mr Ricketts said reports indicated that DeShields believed Mr Simmons was reaching for something with his free hand.

The prosecutor added: “The court can see from the CCTV footage that his free hand was always up in the air in a non-threatening posture.”

Charles Richardson, for the defendant, said: “Let me be the first to say that the circumstances of this particular case are a very sad reminder that it only takes one decision to change an entire lifetime.”

He added that Mr Simmons shared the same interests as many young men, was “of decent temperament” and not a known troublemaker.

Mr Richardson told the court: “On the other hand we have Mr DeShields — and we have to consider both sides — who by all accounts is equally well-liked, well-mannered and well-loved.”

He said: “In most cases a fight is usually a fight. However, in this case the tragic circumstance is that after the punch that my client threw, Mr Simmons fell awkwardly on uneven ground on the sidewalk and that’s what caused the injury ... not the force of the punch, not the punch itself.”

Mr Richardson said DeShields, from Paget, maintained that “there was some form of provocation”, but that he was “extremely remorseful”.

He added: “He knows that he’s going to have to live with this for the rest of his life.”

DeShields told the court that he accepted responsibility for his actions and “the only reason” he punched the victim was because he believed Mr Simmons had reached for something in his back pocket.

He added: “I would like to apologise to his family. I know words will not suffice under these circumstances.”

Puisne Judge Carlisle Greaves said he considered the case to be one of “medium culpability”.

He added: “He could not have intended, in my view, to have caused the death of the deceased.”

Mr Justice Greaves explained that CCTV footage played in court showed the two men in a verbal exchange that started “pretty calmly”.

He said bystanders seemed to be concerned enough to put themselves between the pair, but DeShields “aggressively” made his way around the other people and threw punches at Mr Simmons.

Mr Justice Greaves said that the first strike was of “significant force” and that it was followed by at least two more.

He ordered that time DeShields had already spent in custody should be taken into account.

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

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