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Smierciak pleads guilty to assault

Reduced charges could mean 180 days jail time

By Jack Evans and Ben Blanchard, The Miami Student

Robert Null sat under the yellow fluorescent lights of the Butler County Area One courtroom with his parents on either side. An endless stream of defendants cycled up to the podium, spoke to the judge and their attorney, and sat back down.

He shifted in his red and grey pullover and then raised a cupped hand to his mouth, swallowing medication.

"This is the most I've actually moved in long time," said Null.

A senior economics major and employee at Brick Street Bar, Null was waiting for Zach Smierciak to take the stand.

Smierciak, a redshirt junior starting defensive lineman on Miami's football team, was arrested Saturday, Nov. 5 after he stormed out of Brick Street Bar, pushed over a ladder supporting Null and took off running down the block.

Null landed headfirst on the pavement, began seizing with blood running out of his eye and was unresponsive, according to multiple witness statements in the Oxford Police Department's incident report. Null was transported to McCullough-Hyde Hospital before being taken to the University of Cincinnati hospital.

He has been homebound and unable to function normally since the incident.

"Not great," Null said of his current condition. "I haven't felt great in a long time. My head has been killing me. I can't do school anymore. I can't do anything, actually. I just lay in bed all day."

When Smierciak did approach the podium yesterday, Nov. 17, he plead guilty to an amended charge of reckless assault, a first degree misdemeanor. This charge carries a maximum sentence of 180 days in prison and a $5,000 fine, according to the Ohio Revised Code.

After the plea was entered, Judge Robert H. Lyons invited Null and two of the responding OPD officers to make a statement to the court. Null rose and stood to the side of the room along with his parents and the officers. All declined to speak to the court.

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Smierciak was initially charged with second degree felonious assault, a crime that carries a penalty of two to eight years in prison, according to Ohio Revised Code section 2929.14.

Neal Schuett, Smierciak's attorney, felt the amended charge better fit the incident.

"What he plead to better fits what happened, which was that [Smierciak] didn't know [Null] was on the ladder, but there is no doubt that physical harm happened, that it was serious, we are not contesting that," said Schuett. "...Mr. Smierciak feels very bad about what happened. It wasn't ever intentional and that's why we went with what we did."

The sentencing hearing for the new charge is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Jan. 5, allowing time for Judge Lyons to conduct a pre-sentencing investigation.

Null left the courtroom with an even expression on his face and climbed into a sedan with his mother and father.

"I'm not excited about it, that's for sure. I don't really have anything else to say," said Null. "I mean, trust me, I feel really bad for the kid. I just hope he learns some sort of lesson from it all."