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Soldiers reach plea bargain in beating: Two men get credit for time served, will deploy to Iraq.
Jun. 5–BELLEFONTE — Two of three soldiers and Iraq war veterans accused of beating a Bellefonte man on the streets of State College a year ago reached a plea bargain Monday that gave them credit for time already served in jail — clearing them to go back to Iraq immediately for second tours.
Brenton C. Scrudders, of Milesburg; Christopher Holcomb, of Kingston, Wis.; and Jermaine J. Garrett, of Walterboro, S.C., were charged in the June 2006 assault of a Bellefonte man in downtown State College.
On Monday, before selecting a jury to hear their cases, Scrudders and Garrett pleaded guilty to simple assault and public drunkenness and were sentenced to 41/2 to 9 days in jail, which left them free after credit for time already served.
The two men are deploying to Iraq, according to attorney Karen Muir, who represents Garrett.
“It is my understanding the military is taking them regardless of what happened (Monday),” Muir said. “They are highly regarded and respected and the military is deploying them overseas.”
Centre County District Attorney Michael Madeira discussed the plea offer with the victim before making the deal.
“We had discussed this offer with the victim and they recognized their military service and are satisfied with the resolution,” Madeira said.
Attorney Andrew Shubin, who represents Scrudders, said the men have been separated from their Fort Drum, N.Y.-based unit, which deployed to Iraq months ago.
“These kids have been champing at the bit to rejoin their unit,” Shubin said. “These guys are probably on the next plane to Iraq.”
The soldiers faced charges of aggravated assault, simple assault, harassment, disorderly conduct and public drunkenness after police said they attacked Michael Benjamin, of Bellefonte, in the 200 block of East College Avenue in State College in June 2006.
At a preliminary hearing nearly a year ago, witnesses testified that Garrett approached Benjamin and punched him to the ground before Holcomb and Scrudders began kicking him.
It was unclear Monday whether Holcomb also would accept the plea bargain or stand trial. His attorney, Edward S. Blanarik Jr., was unavailable for comment.