Friends and family members of Kent State student John T. White asked for the two involved in his death to receive a maximum sentence Tuesday.
Portage County Common Pleas Judge John Enlow sentenced John Ragin Jr., 21, of Akron, to three years in prison for involuntary manslaughter. Ragin’s sentence will include the time he’s already served and will start at 9 a.m. Monday.
Hallie Nuspl, 21, of Akron, who was also supposed to be sentenced Tuesday for two counts of assault and one count of falsification, requested leave from court to vacate her apartment. Her case will be rescheduled for next week, Enlow said.
During Ragin’s sentencing, White’s girlfriend Morgan Marucco was one who wanted the maximum sentence of five years. Her statement to the court described White’s kind nature, infectious laugh and their dreams of eventually getting married.
White’s mother, Margaret White, detailed the process of her son’s three major brain surgeries. The procedures consisted of removing a chunk of skull from his brain, draining fluid from his brain and putting a feeding tube in him.
“That’s how my son spent the last five weeks of his life, fighting for his life,” White said.
She said her son was a patriot who served his country in Iraq. He also majored in religion with a minor in history at Kent State. During her statement, the White family held back sobs.
“He didn’t randomly hit his head on the concrete,” she said to the court. “Mr. Ragin hit him unconscious, cold.”
White criticized Ragin for not turning himself in to law enforcement immediately, calling him a “coward” for his actions. She said her son would still be alive if Nuspl hadn’t instigated the altercation.
Ragin’s defense attorney James Burdon asked the court to learn more about “John Ragin the person, and not just John Ragin the defendant.” Burdon said his defendant’s actions on Jan. 23 were uncharacteristic of his nature. Ragin was a high school football and wrestling captain and involved in an honors class and leadership programs.
Clifton Norwood, pastor of Saint Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Akron for 20 years, spoke on behalf of Ragin.
“I had the privilege of seeing this young man grow up as a child, baptizing him,” Norwood said. “John is a good kid who grew up to be a good man.”
Norwood asked Enlow to be lenient with Ragin’s sentencing. But Ragin said he wasn’t asking for lenience. He wanted to express “genuine remorse” to the White family through a letter he wrote for them.
As he stood teary-eyed at the podium, Ragin looked reserved.
“On that night when the incident occurred, my judgment led to what happened,” he said.
In an emotional scene, Ragin consoled White’s relatives with handshakes and hugs outside the courthouse after the hearing.
Ragin admitted to striking White and said he’s had many sleepless nights because of it. His girlfriend, Tara Stahl, cried as Burdon read an excerpt in court from Ragin’s letter to White’s parents:
“I tried to do my best to avoid this confrontation, but in the end I wasn’t strong enough,” Burdon read.
Contact Joey Pompignano at [email protected]