Clare man who repeatedly stomped on hotel guest’s head in unprovoked attack avoids jail

A man who repeatedly stomped on another man’s head in an unprovoked attack at a Limerick hotel has avoided jail after being handed a suspended sentence.

Lee O’Brien, 25, with an address in Cratloe Woods Student Village, Co Clare, pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to Danny Sutton, (born 1997), of Kilmacthomas, Co Waterford, at South Court Hotel, Raheen, Limerick, 9th September 2018.

Following his arrest, O’Brien, who did not know the victim, told Gardaí he was “disgusted” by his own actions. The unprovoked attack happened in the early hours of the morning near the hotel residents’ bar, and after the defendant had consumed alcohol, which the court heard had an addiction.

It is understood that Mr Sutton, who was staying at the hotel after attending an event at an exhibition center in Limerick, tried to intervene in an argument involving O’Brien and members of his family. However, O’Brien punched Mr. Sutton and knocked him to the ground.

O’Brien continued to attack Mr. Sutton as he lay on the ground, and after walking away he came back and stomped on Mr. Sutton’s head at least three times. Judge Tom O’Donnell described it as a “vicious” attack.

The judge said:

Without any provocation, the victim was struck by Mr. O’Brien, who knocked him to the ground and stomped on his head three times.

“It was an unprovoked and very violent attack. The accused clearly targeted the victim’s head with several swabs, he took a deliberate position and delivered a number of swabs to the victim’s head.” The Judge O’Donnell said he was ‘lucky’ that Mr Sutton’s injuries were ‘not as serious as they turned out to be’.

Mr Sutton suffered cuts, lacerations and bruises to one eye and his head, but he suffered no ‘lasting injuries and he has made a full recovery’, the judge said.

The assault was caught on CCTV at the hotel and the footage ‘clearly showed Mr O’Brien as the attacker and repeatedly stomping on Mr Sutton’, Judge O’Donnell said.

“The drink does not suit me”

After his arrest, O’Brien made a full confession, telling Gardaí, “drinking is not for me” and he admitted the attack was “disgusting”.

After being charged with assault causing damage, O’Brien replied, “I’m so sorry.”

The judge said it appeared an argument had broken out between members of O’Brien’s party “and Mr Sutton may have gone to calm him down and the defendant got angry and gave him kicks, punches and punches”.

“It was quite a vicious attack, Mr. O’Brien became aggressive and sought to get angry at someone.” The court heard O’Brien had 16 prior convictions, including for assault, burglary and theft.

O’Brien’s attorney said he was remorseful, was a loving father, had a longtime partner and was “absolutely appalled at his own behavior”. “He had a pretty tough upbringing and lost his dad when he was 10 and he fell into the wrong crowd,” the attorney said.

The court heard that O’Brien has since “made amends, exceptionally apologizing”, found full-time employment, attends Alcoholics Anonymous and has committed to residential treatment for his addiction. O’Brien offered €500 compensation to the victim.

Judge O’Donnell said the fact that the attack was unprovoked was “worrying” and that O’Brien, through his previous convictions, had shown a “propensity for violence, which is amplified by the ‘alcohol”.

In light of O’Brien’s early guilty plea and his efforts to rehabilitate himself, the judge handed down a suspended two-year prison sentence and ordered he pay €500 compensation to Mr Sutton .

Judge O’Donnell told O’Brien he would activate the suspended sentence if he got into trouble within the next two years.

Kasandra J. Stone