GF man sentenced to 5 years in bar fight stabbingJohnny Bob Mendez, accused of stabbing Justin Christianson during a fight in a Grand Forks parking lot, has been sentenced to serve five years behind bars followed by 10 years of supervised probation.
By: Archie Ingersoll, Grand Forks Herald
Johnny Bob Mendez, accused of stabbing Justin Christianson during a fight in a Grand Forks parking lot, has been sentenced to serve five years behind bars followed by 10 years of supervised probation.
“The victim did receive two knife wounds, stabbings, to the chest right by the nipple area — one right beside it, one right below it,” prosecutor Carmell Mattison said. “He had to receive emergency care from Altru Hospital.”
Mendez, Grand Forks, pleaded guilty to attempted murder in February. On Friday, he apologized to Christianson, who did not attend the hearing.
“I just want to tell him that I’m sorry for everything that happened,” Mendez said. “I know that nothing’s going to change what I did.”
Mendez, a 29-year-old father of four, said he grew up in California around drugs and gangs but came to North Dakota for a better life for his family.
“All my life all I’ve ever wanted was a family of my own,” he said. “I would never do anything on purpose to jeopardize me being with my family.”
The prosecution and defense made a joint recommendation that Mendez do 15 years in prison with 10 years suspended and that he would serve supervised probation during that suspension.
“This case, given the serious nature of it, has gone through literally hours and hours of discussion, back and forth, with the defense and the state’s attorney’s office,” Mendez’s attorney, Steven Light, told Judge Sonja Clapp of state District Court.
Mattison said she had discussed the sentencing recommendation with Christianson and his brother who was there when the stabbing occurred.
“Both of them felt that the defendant should be held responsible and accountable for the crime of attempted murder,” she said. “They felt that a period of incarceration was appropriate as well.”
Light did not request that Clapp mitigate the suggested sentence.
“It’s really, perhaps, maybe the not the best phrase to use in a case like this,” Light said, “but Johnny Mendez is here to fall on the sword today and say that ‘I accept responsibility for what I did.’”
Clapp went along with the joint recommendation.
“It’s just lucky that Mr. Christianson recovered,” the judge said. “It could have been a lot worse.”
The charge against Mendez stemmed from an early morning altercation Feb. 17, 2008. The fight started outside El Roco night club on North Washington Street and rekindled a few blocks away in a parking lot near Darcy’s Cafe, where Mendez punctured Christianson’s lung with a knife, according to court documents.
The judge had a pointed question for Mendez: “What were you thinking when you used this knife on Mr. Christianson?”
Mendez told her he felt he was in danger, saying that he was outnumbered by Christianson and his brother.
Clapp ordered to have no contact with Christianson, 29, and compensate him for medical costs and lost wages.
Mendez, who remains in custody, was given credit for the time he’s served since his arrest Feb. 19, 2008.
Ingersoll reports on crime and courts. Reach him at (701) 780-1269; (800) 477-6572, ext. 269; or send e-mail to email@example.com.