Sucker punch leads to prison

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By AMY LINDBLOM

For the second time, a Jamestown man who fractured another man's skull in an East Sonora bar fight has pleaded guilty to felony battery.

Terry Leigh Gracia, 27, had pleaded guilty in January after a judge agreed that Gracia would be sentenced to a year in the county jail rather than four years in prison provided the Tuolumne County Probation Department and state prison evaluators agreed.

Those two agencies did not agree, however, so in July, Gracia rescinded his guilty plea and a trial was set for late September.

But just before his trial was to begin last week, Gracia told Tuolumne County Superior Court Judge Eleanor Provost he wanted to plead guilty in exchange for two years in prison. Provost said she could only offer Gracia the maximum penalty allowed for the crime four years in prison.

Gracia agreed and the trial was canceled.

According to a sheriff's report and court records, Gracia hit Gregory Lynch, 46, on July 9, 2002, after the two played a game of pool and Lynch won. Before that game, the two had never met.

Lynch, of Sonora, and a friend were drinking beer and playing pool, as were Gracia and a friend. Gracia challenged Lynch to a game, but when Lynch won and gloated, an angry Gracia came from behind and hit Lynch on the left temple. The blow knocked Lynch out cold and he hit the bar's concrete floor, reports said.

When paramedics arrived, Lynch was unconscious with blood coming from his ears.

He was rushed to Tuolumne General Hospital, then taken by air ambulance to a Modesto hospital with a skull fracture and swelling of his brain. Early the next morning, the swelling forced doctors to remove part of Lynch's brain.

Since that night, Lynch, a Navy veteran, has lived under constant supervision at a veterans hospital in Palo Alto. He has undergone numerous surgeries, the last of which was to attach a metal plate to his skull to cover the hole from the brain surgery.

11510744
The Union Democrat
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