Man gets probation for bar brawl

PORT CLINTON Eric Buckley has not lived a perfect life. The 27-year-old Port Clinton
Sarah Weber
May 24, 2010

PORT CLINTON

Eric Buckley has not lived a perfect life.

The 27-year-old Port Clinton man was convicted of felony drug trafficking in 2005. He's had several traffic violations.

And this spring, he was charged with two counts of felonious assault for his involvement in a bar brawl at Nick's Road House in Port Clinton.

The early April incident left Tim Nowak, 50, Oak Harbor, clinging to life with a shattered skull. Nowak is now recovering.

Buckley pleaded guilty in September to a single reduced charge of aggravated assault, which carries a sentence of up to 18 months in jail.

But Buckley's attorney, Christopher Marcinko, made the case at his client's sentencing Thursday afternoon that the young man is not a threat to society and should be eligible for probation.

Marcinko characterized Buckley as a good citizen and a hard worker who found himself in a terrible situation -- a situation he did not initiate.

"He is a well-mannered young man, a well-spoken young man, who cares deeply for his family and his community," Marcinko said.

He said Buckley's behavior at the bar that night shows he did not instigate the brawl or cause Nowak's catastrophic injuries. After watching a blurry tape that captured the evening's events, Ottawa County Common Pleas Judge Bruce Winters agreed about Buckley's involvement.

"It's very hard to see much in the way of details on that tape ... It does not appear that Mr. Buckley was a primary aggressor in this matter," the judge said.

He sentenced Buckley to 18 months in jail, which he suspended as long as Buckley abides by the terms of his probation for five years.

Winters asked Port Clinton police Sgt. Robert Hickman to narrate the tape, which shows about 20 people in the crowded bar scattering amid punching and shoving.

Buckley is shown stepping between two men who are verbally arguing, pulling his friend away from the situation. A scuffle ensued, and Nowak ended up next to Buckley. Nowak put his hands on Buckley's back and Buckley was shown throwing his elbow back at Nowak. Nowak responded by punching Buckley in the ear.

The scuffle moved down the bar, and Buckley and Nowak tumbled to the ground.

Another man, identified as 23-year-old Jarmearl Montgomery, whose last known address was in Sandusky, was shown hurling a beer bottle at the floor toward Nowak. Buckley got up off the floor and walked away.

Montgomery then got on a chair, flashed a gang sign, jumped down and did what is described as a touchdown dance.

Hickman said it appears Buckley had a beer bottle in his hand and used it to hit Nowak when they went down to the floor.

Marcinko said Buckley didn't have a bottle in his hand. He said the tape showed Buckley was pulled into the scuffle and didn't appear to have instigated it.

He noted that Nowak's toxicology reports from that night show a blood alcohol concentration of .22.

Nowak's wife, Sue Nowak, made a statement at the hearing through a victim's advocate. She said her husband was not a violent man and would not have initiated the fight. She said Nowak's primary concern was for his son, who was also at the bar that night.

Montgomery, who was also charged with felony assault in the fight, was arrested near Cleveland on Sept. 22 after he failed to appear twice in Ottawa County court. He is now in the Ottawa County jail.