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After her son's killer, Wendy Georges, delivered a heartfelt apology at his sentencing in New London Thursday, the mother of fatal stabbing victim John Stevens Fleurimond stood up in court to say she forgives him.
Georges, 31, stabbed his friend, 23-year-old Fleurimond, in the back with a knife during a poker game at a Norwich apartment on Dec. 14, 2010. The two had started fighting after Georges accused Fleurimond of cheating.
"We love you, John," Georges said, crying. "God rest your soul. I did a terrible thing that I didn't mean. I'm sorry, everybody."
Family members of both the victim and the defendant wailed and crossed the courtroom aisle to hug one another. Fleurimond's mother attempted to embrace Georges, but was blocked by Judicial Marshals.
"I forgive him," cried the mother, Marie Jean Louis. "Because it was a mistake. I know it was a mistake."
Georges had pleaded no contest to first degree manslaughter in exchange for a sentence of 12½ years in prison followed by seven years special parole. Because of his immigration status, the Haitian native faces deportation upon completion of his prison sentence.
"This is probably one of the most emotional moments I've ever experienced in court," Public Defender Bruce A. Sturman said. "It's a tragedy."
Georges has been held in lieu of $1 million bond since he was arrested hours after the stabbing.
Georges and Fleurimond were playing cards at Fleurimond's apartment at 461 Boswell Ave. when Georges, suspecting Fleurimond of cheating, grabbed him by the throat, according to prosecutor Stephen M. Carney. Fleurimond pulled a knife and slashed Georges. Others pulled the two men apart, but Georges broke free, grabbed the knife and stabbed Fleurimond in the back.
Sturman said he and Georges had discussed going to trial with a self-defense claim, since Fleurimond had pulled the knife on Georges first. It would have been an "imperfect defense," Sturman said, since the crime did not occur in Georges' home and the judge would have instructed the jury that Georges had a duty to retreat.
Judge Patrick J. Clifford said Georges had a good background, and was employed and married with children at the time of his arrest.
"There isn't much for me to say," Clifford said. "The families are out there hugging each other. It's emotional... Two families are ruined over a tragic situation where somebody has a knife and ends up dying."