IT was a “moment of madness” that left one man in a coma with a fractured skull and permanent hearing loss in one ear and his former mate facing a jail term.
Matt Alexander Stephenson, 30, of Merewether, and Ebo Whaleboat were arguing outside a house in Mitchell Street, Merewether, in the early hours of April 2 last year when Stephenson threw “the fateful punch”.
The pair were heavily intoxicated after a night out with a group of mates and began arguing when they returned to the house.
Stephenson left the party and went home, but returned and confronted Mr Whaleboat.
“Come on let’s go out and sort this f---ing out,” Stephenson told him.
A witness said they saw the two men facing each other and arguing outside the house in Mitchell Street before Stephenson punched Mr Whaleboat to the left side of his head.
The witness told police they saw Mr Whaleboat immediately fall to the ground and heard a “loud crack”, according to a statement of agreed facts.
Distressed and crying, Stephenson placed Mr Whaleboat in the recovery position and called triple-zero.
“Come on mate,” Stephenson said. “Get up you will be right. Come on get up. I’m so sorry.” Mr Whaleboat was in a coma when he arrived at John Hunter Hospital and would remain that way for the next 72 hours.
Meanwhile, Stephenson was driven to the hospital so he could hand himself into police. Stephenson pleaded guilty to reckless grievous bodily harm, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail.
During a sentence hearing in Newcastle Local Court on Monday, barrister Peter Harper told magistrate Robert Stone it was a “moment of madness” that led to his client throwing the punch.
Mr Harper submitted that, given his remorse and prior good character, Stephenson could be appropriately dealt with by serving an intensive corrections order or a suspended sentence.
DPP solicitor Andrew Baker said a suspended sentence was not appropriate.
Mr Whaleboat read a victim impact statement in court, outlining for Mr Stone how the “fateful punch” had drastically changed his life.
“I have lost myself in this whole process,” Mr Whaleboat said. “I feel lonely and disconnected from loved ones and every day I carry a burden to constantly adjust to my injuries.”
Mr Stone adjourned the matter until Friday to give his decision.