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A man who was jumped and beaten “within an inch of his life” by three masked men on a school construction site in New London two years ago listened in court Wednesday as a judge sentenced a father and son and a third man to prison time for the vicious attack.
Brian P. Sullivan, 49, his son Vincent Sullivan, 24, and 29-year-old Kebner Dulphe III, all of Middletown, had pleaded no contest in Superior Court to charges of second-degree assault and conspiracy to commit second-degree assault.
Brian Sullivan, who orchestrated the April 19, 2012, attack on David Zbell based on the mistaken belief that Zbell was going to get him fired for smoking marijuana on the Nathan Hale School construction job, was sentenced to seven years in prison followed by five years of special parole.
Vincent Sullivan, who carried out the attack with Dulphe and a fourth defendant, Nicholas Vinci, was sentenced to three years in prison followed by five years of probation.
Dulphe was set to receive a two-year prison sentence followed by five years of probation, but Judge Hillary B. Strackbein tacked an additional six months onto his prison term because he was re-arrested in an domestic violence incident while his case was pending. Vinci’s case is pending, and he is due back in court on July 19.
Zbell attended the sentencing with his wife and asked Victim Advocate LeeAnn Vertefeuille to read a statement he had prepared. He suffered a broken nose, a collapsed eye socket, a head injury that resulted in an emergency surgery for an temporal artery aneurysm, and herniated cervical disks that required an additional surgery.
“My first memory is wondering why I was unable to get off the ground and how I got there,” he said in the statement. “... I remember thinking I was going to die from the amount of blood that was running through my head.”
In the aftermath of the incident, he said he was in fear for his life and in a constant state of paranoia, not knowing who had attacked him and whether they would return. His children were afraid the same men were going to attack them and their mother, he said in the statement, and he was “remanded” to the inside of his house, while his wife was forced to take over virtually all of his family duties.
Zbell continues to have nightmares and intrusive thoughts of the attack, has permanent scarring and is unable to trust anyone as a result of the incident, according to the statement. He was not satisfied with the sentences and said all of the defendants should have received special parole, a strict form of supervision in which they would be reincarcerated immediately should they reoffend.
He told the defendants that a new door was opening in his life as their jail cells slammed shut on them and that he would be walking away from the court “with my head held high.”
Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney Michael E. Kennedy acknowledged Zbell was unhappy about the plea deals, and said he was, too, in a way, but that they were a result of months of negotiation, in front of several different judges, with the defendants’ attorneys. Kennedy said he was impressed by the way Zbell carried himself and advocated for himself while the case was pending.
“He was literally beaten within an inch of his life, but nevertheless maintained his dignity,” Kennedy said.
Attorney Jennifer Nowak, who represented Dulphe, said he was the least involved of all the defendants and that she was struck by his immaturity.
“Anyone who knows me knows I had no problems prior to this assault,” Dulphe said. “I’m not a troublemaker.”
Noting the viciousness of the assault, the judge told him he was getting the deal because of the case’s “long and tortured history.”
Vincent Sullivan, represented by attorney Patrick Tomasiewicz, was charged in a marijuana and firearms case in Middletown while his assault charges were pending. His attorney noted Sullivan was a college graduate who had planned a career in criminal justice.
“I would just like to apologize to the victim and his family,” Sullivan said. “It was completely out of my character.”
Brian Sullivan, represented by attorney William T. Koch Jr., said during a presentencing interview that orchestrating the crime was the worst mistake he had ever made, according to Koch. At the sentencing, Sullivan said he was remorseful that he had ruined the lives of the younger men involved.
The judge said it was “extremely disturbing” that he had planned the attack.
“There was a striking lack of empathy,” Strackbein said. “I just can’t understand this lack of empathy.”