Villages-News.com readers were stunned Nov. 7 after a Breaking News alert told of a prosecutor’s decision that two men would escape jail time in the 2016 deadly beating of a man at Spanish Springs Town Square.
It was the year’s #7 story on Villages-News.com.
Brice Hall, 21, had been facing a charge of manslaughter in the death of 26-year-old Austin Stevens, who worked at McCall’s Tavern at the square.
Hall’s co-defendant, 21-year-old Nicholas Metcalfe, had been sentenced to six months probation after pleading no contest to a charge of battery, which had been reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Hall’s attorney, Stacy Youmans, in July filed a motion to dismiss the case and announced her intent to use a Stand Your Ground defense.
A document from the prosecutor’s office indicated that it has been determined that Stevens was the “initial aggressor” on the night of June 5, 2016.
The original police report said teens who had been in a minivan that had passed by McCall’s Tavern had been taunting employees. Stevens went to the corner at TooJay’s to confront the teens from the minivan. The original report said Hall ran up behind Stevens and punched Stevens on the side of his head, causing Stevens to fall to the ground and strike the back of his head on the concrete. While on the ground and unresponsive, Metcalfe kicked Stevens in the face, the original report said.
A key element in the decision to drop the case was the deposition from 22-year-old Corey Alvut of Summerfield, a witness to the altercation that night. Alvut was reluctant to give his deposition and ultimately was arrested and deposed at the Lake County Jail.
“At his sworn deposition held at the Lake County Jail, Alvut denied seeing Hall strike Stevens with the running force described in the police report,” wrote Assistant State Attorney Hugh Dean Bass Jr.
Dustin Levay, one of the occupants of the mini-van, said that Hall saw the altercation and that “Hall then ran over while yelling at Stevens to ‘stop,’” Bass wrote.
“Levay stated in his sworn deposition that Hall was ‘standing in place’ when he (Hall) struck Stevens on the left side of his face, which knocked him to the ground, at which time Hall hit Stevens again as he was down,” Bass wrote.
The assistant prosecutor said that while Stevens was being assisted by first responders, he denied that any altercation had occurred, declined prosecution, and stated that he merely “fell” at the scene.
Stevens was initially taken to The Villages Regional Hospital, but was soon transferred to Ocala Regional Medical Center, where he died of injuries suffered to the head.
“The medical examiner ruled the cause of death to be complications of blunt head trauma. The injuries to the skull were consistent with the victim’s head striking the hard ground, sidewalk or pavement,” Bass said.
Ultimately, the prosecutor’s office concluded that Hall acted in defense of his companions that fateful night.
“Given the foregoing developments in the testimony from sworn depositions, the State cannot file a traverse to the motion in good faith, as required by law. Even assuming the State could ethically file a traverse to the motion, the likelihood of conviction at trial is extremely minimal, if any, given these subsequent developments in the testimony,” Bass wrote.