A man who killed a Melbourne surgeon with a single blow has become the first to receive a minimum 10-year jail sentence under Victoria’s ‘coward punch’ laws.
Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann, 41, suffered fatal head injuries when punched by Joseph Esmaili at Box Hill Hospital in May 2017.
His killer, now 24, was found guilty of manslaughter last year and was on Wednesday ordered to spend up to 10 years and six months in prison.
Esmaili smiled and nodded to the public gallery as he was led away to begin his jail term.
Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann, 41, suffered fatal head injuries when punched by Joseph Esmaili (pictured) at Box Hill Hospital in May 2017
He’s the first person to receive a mandatory minimum decade-long prison term under Victoria’s ‘coward punch’ laws, meaning he must serve at least 10 years before becoming eligible for release on parole.
Mr Pritzwald-Stegmann was leaving the hospital when he stopped to tell a group – including Esmaili – to stop smoking near the entrance.
An argument broke out between the pair.
‘Unfortunately neither of you was prepared to simply walk away from the argument,’ Justice Hollingworth said.
Esmaili punched the surgeon with such force he was knocked unconscious and suffered ‘catastrophic’ injuries when his head hit the floor.
His family switched off his life support a month later.
The judge said the prosecutors had been satisfied the four key elements of the law, which was introduced in 2014, were met, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
They claimed the punch was deliberate, to the head, that the victim wouldn’t have expected it, and the offender probably knew the victim wouldn’t have expected it,
Mr Pritzwald-Stegmann (pictured) had approached a group including Esmaili and asked them to stop smoking
The court heard the pair had also exchanged heated words prior to the surprise attack and that Esmali had placed his arms behind his back in a non-threatening way.
Justice Hollingworth said Esmali’s actions contributed to satisfying the requirement Mr Pritzwald-Stegmann wasn’t anticipating violence.
‘You were well aware that he was probably not anticipating the punch,’ Justice Hollingworth said.
At the time of the incident, Mr Pritzwald-Stegmann was leaving to go home at the end of his shift but went back inside the hospital to get security.
He was followed by Esmaili.
Witnesses told police Mr Pritzwald-Stegmann asked Esmaili to leave, but he responded by telling the surgeon, ‘You need to suck my d***,’ ABC News reported.
Mr Pritzwald-Stegmann was then overheard saying: ‘You just spat in my face’.
After punching the surgeon, Esmali fled the hospital and told his friends outside he needed to leave because he had just hit somebody, the publication reported
On Wednesday, the judge said the victim’s death had turned the lives of his family, including his wife and young twin daughters, upside down.
Outside court, Mr Pritzwald-Stegmann’s wife, Christine Baumberg (pictured), said in a statement Esmali had tried to blame everyone but himself throughout the trial
Ms Baumberg (pictured) described her husband as a dedicated heart and lung surgeon, who spent his days working with patients who suffered the harmful effects of smoking
Outside court, Mr Pritzwald-Stegmann’s wife, Christine Baumberg slammed her husban’s killer, saying he tried to blame everyone but himself throughout the trial.
She described her husband as a dedicated heart and lung surgeon, who spent his days working with patients who suffered the harmful effects of smoking.
‘First and foremost he was a loving husband and father,’ she said.
Ms Baumberg said her husband should have been safe at work and has called on the state government to provide safer working environments for all hospital staff.
Esmaili had expressed some remorse for his actions, but still blamed the victim for what occurred, evidenced by his repeated claim he had acted in self-defence.
‘You still have some way to go before you genuinely accept responsibility for your actions that day,’ the judge told him.
Ms Baumberg (pictrued) said her husband should have been safe at work and has called on the state government to provide safer working environments for all hospital staff
In her sentencing remarks, Justice Hollingworth commented on how the accused described his childhood as being dominated by physical and emotional abuse.
‘You have described your father as a long term drug abuser, who had a quick and violent temper.
‘You said that your upbringing made you hypervigilant, and prone to retaliate in any situation that you perceived may escalate to violence.
‘Although you did not retaliate to your father’s abusive behaviour, you said you were frequently in fights with your peers, and learned to not back down,’ she said.
The judge said Esmali had also confessed to consulting psychologist Luke Armstrong that he’d been hit in the face approximately 200 times.
Mr Pritzwald-Stegmann died after being punched by Joseph Esmaili in May 2017
Esmaili (pictured) expressed some remorse for his actions, but still blamed the victim for what occurred, evidenced by his repeated claim he acted in self-defence
Justice Hollingworth then referred to Esmali’s alleged drug-taking behaviours.
‘You started abusing drugs and alcohol in your early teens.
‘By the time you were 17 or 18, you were regularly abusing cannabis, alcohol and methamphetamine (or ‘ice’).
‘You subsequently started using heroin,’ she said.
Esmali’s sentence marks the first time the ‘one punch’ legislation has been acted on since the law was introduced in 2014 following a spate of fatal attacks.
Outside court, the mother of one-punch victim David Cassai, who was fatally punched in 2012, wept tears of relief as the judgement was handed down.
Caterina Politi, who fought to introduce the law after her son’s killer was jailed for six years, told the Herald Sun she was ‘proud of what they had achieved’.
‘Hopefully this is the start to many more changes to the justice system because we deserve it,’ she said.