Man Who Hit Stephen Jackson Sentenced

Wednesday, February 28th 2007, 12:44 pm

By: News On 6

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ A man who hit former Indiana Pacers guard Stephen Jackson with a car during a fight outside a strip club last fall was sentenced Wednesday to two years in prison.

Deon Willford was convicted Feb. 12 of felony battery and a misdemeanor charge of failure to stop at the scene of an accident.

Marion Superior Court Judge Patricia Gifford sentenced the 23-year-old Willford to four years on the felony count, with two years suspended. He also was sentenced to a year for the misdemeanor count, which would be served at the same time, and to two years probation.

Willford, who apologized before Griffin sentenced him, could be eligible to be released in a year.

``I wish it could've happened in a better way than it happened,'' Willford said in court.

Jackson wasn't at the sentencing, but prosecutor David Wyser said the Golden State Warriors player wants restitution for the $1,400 in dental work he had to have done after the incident. Jackson chipped some teeth and had to have plastic surgery on his lip.

Wyser said he presumed that Jackson could afford the dental work, but ``it is an issue of principle, that the defendant be held accountable for his actions.'' Gifford said she would order Willford to pay some of the cost after determining whether Jackson had dental insurance.

Willford claimed self defense at his trial, testifying that Jackson was walking toward his car and pointing a gun at him. But witnesses said Jackson was walking away from Willford's car and had no weapon out at the time.

Jackson, who also faces charges related to the Oct. 6 brawl outside Club Rio, said he was hit by the car after he fired shots in the air to try to break up a fight that started after Willford's cousin, Quentin Willford, got into an argument with a group of people who accompanied Jackson to the club. That group included current Pacers Jamaal Tinsley and Marquis Daniels.

Jackson has pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of criminal recklessness and misdemeanor counts of battery and disorderly conduct and is set for trial on April 12. The criminal recklessness charge carries a prison term of six months to three years.

At the time, Jackson was on probation for his role in a brawl between Indiana Pacers players and Detroit Pistons fans in 2004. Jackson pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault and battery charges in September 2005 for his role in the 2004 brawl.

A Michigan judge ruled that the Indiana charges constituted a violation of Jackson's probation. Jackson, who was traded earlier this year, faces up to 30 days in jail on the probation violation.

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