A 32-year-old Huntley man was sentenced to six months in the McHenry County jail - though he likely will only serve three of them - for his part in a booze- and baseball-fueled brawl at a child's birthday party that cost his brother-in-law his eye.
Jaroslaw F. "Jerry" Czapla also must spend two years on probation and pay a $500 fine as part of a sentence handed down Friday by Judge Sharon Prather.
Contact information ( * required )
Prather, who also barred Czapla from drinking alcohol while on probation, said she decided against a longer jail or prison term because of the "extreme financial hardship" it would cause his family.
Robert Steele, the former Gurnee resident who lost his right eye and suffered a concussion in the fight, said he was hoping for a longer sentence, "but I'll go along with what the judge says."
"He didn't get off scot-free with just probation," Steele added.
Czapla pleaded guilty in November to a charge of mob action stemming from the July 19, 2008, altercation during a 2-year-old's birthday party at his residence. Police said Czapla was drinking alcohol in his garage with Steele and others when casual conversation - some of it pitting Cubs fans versus Sox fans - turned into an argument then a physical confrontation.
At some point, authorities said, Czapla took a swing at Steele. They were momentarily separated, authorities said, but then Steele was knocked to the ground and someone else - authorities alleged it was Czapla's brother, Boguslaw Czapla - repeatedly kicked him in the face and body. An eye injury he suffered was so severe, doctors had to remove the eye and replace it with a prosthetic.
In a written statement read in court Friday, Steele states the injury has left him unable to continue to work as a truck driver. His family lost its home and car because of his unemployment and it had to give away his son's puppy.
"That hurts the most, that I am the man of the house and I can't even provide for my family," he said.
Before the July 2008 fracas, he wrote, he and Jaroslaw were so close he chose him as his son's godfather.
"Jerry and I always got along, until this evening, I considered him my brother also," he said.
When given a chance to speak, Czapla said he had learned his lesson and would not be involved in a similar incident again. At Prather's urging, he turned and said "I'm sorry" to Steele.
Czapla's lawyer blamed the incident on his client's brother, who sat watching the sentencing hearing from the back of Prather's courtroom.
"Boguslaw is the bad guy here," defense attorney Jeffrey Altman said. "It is a terrible injury, but it's not something for which Jaroslaw Czapla should bear primary responsibility." Boguslaw Czapla, 38, of Elmwood Park, is scheduled to face trial April 12 on aggravated battery and mob action charges stemming from the incident.