Man sentenced for assault that left Norwich housemate without legs
New London — In a situation the defense said it has “never seen,” Kristopher Prudhomme was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison, suspended after 10 years served, for a 2016 assault that left his Norwich housemate with no legs.
Prudhomme and the victim, Michael Lovering, were friends who met while working in the music scene in New Orleans. They shared an interest in the underground Goth scene and at some point moved in to an apartment in Norwich together.
They were in that apartment on Oct. 22, 2016, when an intoxicated Lovering told Prudhomme that he had slept with Prudhomme’s girlfriend.
A little later that same day, sitting with his legs tucked under him, Lovering said he felt pressure on his neck and passed out. When police were called about 14 hours later, Lovering’s legs had been without circulation for so long, they had to be amputated the next day.
What’s unusual about the case, the defense said, is that the state argued Prudhomme used a string from one of Lovering’s leather corsets to strangle Lovering. But the jury, while it convicted him of three other crimes, acquitted Prudhomme of strangulation.
In a motion for a new trial, the defense said the state hadn’t showed how Prudhomme assaulted Lovering nor considered whether Lovering strangled himself.
They said they hadn’t seen a case where it wasn’t clear what the assault was.
The defense also entered a motion for a judgment of acquittal, arguing that Prudhomme couldn’t have foreseen Lovering’s multihour loss of consciousness and thus shouldn’t be held legally responsible for the amputation.
Judge Barbara Bailey Jongbloed denied each motion, saying the jury had seen the evidence and heard the arguments in court and had made its decision.
Prudhomme’s attorney Damon Kirschbaum then asked Jongbloed to consider not sentencing Prudhomme to prison.
Kirschbaum said none of Prudhomme’s crimes — first-degree assault, cruelty to persons and tampering with evidence — carries a mandatory minimum sentence. He said Prudhomme, who is autistic and has been imprisoned since Dec. 7, already has had belongings stolen and been threatened with physical and sexual violence.
Kirschbaum cited Prudhomme’s good education, history of employment with places including Electric Boat, lack of criminal history and consistent familial support as other reasons to not further incarcerate him.
Prosecutor Stephen M. Carney, on the other hand, said the jury clearly found Prudhomme was “indifferent and cruel.” He asked for an extensive period of incarceration for the man whose actions had a “catastrophic effect” on Lovering.
In a statement submitted to the court, Lovering, who wasn’t present, said his life is “forever altered” and that it often is hard to get out of bed.
“I’ve gone from being independent to having to rely on others for everything,” he said in his statement. “I have to deal with this for the rest of my life.”
Jongbloed said she understood the elements working in Prudhomme’s favor, and recognized family members who were present for their continued support.
“It’s difficult for the court to make decisions in cases when the conduct seems so out of character,” she said. “However, this is a serious offense that resulted in catastrophic injuries, and that necessitates serious consequences.”
Prudhomme’s prison term will be followed by a five years’ probation. Prudhomme is to have no contact with the victim, and is to continue receiving the medical care he needs.
Prudhomme’s originally scheduled February sentencing was postponed when his attorney notified the court Prudhomme was suicidal. Prudhomme underwent a psychiatric evaluation so the case could proceed.
Outside the courtroom, family members expressed disappoint with the sentence. Before the trial, Prudhomme rejected a plea deal that would have given him seven years in prison.
“In a way, he’s a victim, too, because he’s a victim of his autism,” one family member said, before being ushered away by the defense team.
On the first floor of the courthouse, Kirschbaum declined to comment further on the case.