A U.S. Marine convicted of badly beating a man outside a country music concert in Chula Vista was sentenced Friday in a San Diego-area courtroom to one year behind bars and three years probation.
At the sentencing, Sharkey's attorney, Jason Conge, delivered a last-minute argument for probation instead of jail time, telling the judge that the evidence shows there were several Marines involved in the beating, and to put it all on Sharkey would be unfair.
"I know if he could have gone back and he could change what he did that night, I know he would. But he can’t,” said Conge.
Zander and his friends were tailgating in the parking lot at the Sleep Train Amphitheatre during a Jason Aldean concert when they got into a violent altercation with Sharkey and a group of Marines.
At Sharkey’s preliminary hearing last October, Zander testified that the confrontation between the groups quickly escalated and the group of Marines severely battered him. Zander said he was beaten so badly, he suffered several broken bones in his face and underwent reconstructive surgery. He was also treated for a broken leg, broken nose and chipped teeth.
On the stand at that time, Zander said he felt as if his assailants were trying to kill him.
“While I was on the ground, I was being hit repeatedly in the head. I felt a sharp pain in my leg. That’s when I assumed someone stomped on my leg – broke it, or kicked it and broke it,” Zander testified.
“[I] also felt someone’s hand trying to gauge fingers in my eyes; I felt someone's hand go in the side of my mouth and begin trying to turn my cheek to turn my head and expose it."
The victim said the fight began after the Marines were bothering several women in Zander’s tailgating group, prompting him to step in and confront the men. Zander said Sharkey was the first in the group to punch him in the face.
Sharkey maintained his innocence through his trial, but was ultimately convicted.
At Friday's sentencing, about 20 Marines from his platoon showed up to support him. His attorney reminded the judge that Sharkey has had eight years of service as a Marine and the trial process has taken him from his duties, including being deployed. He argued Sharkey is not a danger to society.
On the other side, Zander's mother, Cheryl Zander, spoke of the pain and fear her family has endured. She said she's had nightmares since the night of the beating that Marines were coming to stalk and attack her and her family.
Cheryl also spoke of spending all hours of the day and night caring for her son after the beating, feeding him with a syringe and giving him medication. She begged the judge for severe punishment for Sharkey.
Keith Zander, the victim's father through tears, also spoke before the judge. He said he too had recurring nightmares about Marines following the beating of his son.
“I kept dreaming of these groups of demonic thugs hiding on the edge of our property, planning to ambush our loved ones with. My dreams would end with chainsaws, knives, baseball bats,” he said.
The father reminded the judge of the terrible pain his son experienced. He said Zander lost 15 pounds, had to be fed only soft food and wound up with eight bolts in his jaw.
“He said it was like his face was being hit by a bolt of lightning,” added Keith.
A letter written by Zander was read on his behalf as well. It stated, in part:
“I have never felt such a feeling of helplessness and complete inability to protect myself or those around me. That feeling of the resulting extensive injuries I sustained affected me physically, emotionally and mentally."
In the end, Zander's parents said they were pleased with the Sharkey's sentence but said their battle isn't over.
“There’s one guy down and four or five other guys that have not been brought to justice yet,” said Keith. “At this point, that’s what our objective is going to be – to deal with the NCIS and military.”
“It’s a good outcome and I hope it sends a message to other Marines that this behavior is not acceptable. Their job is to defend their country, which we are part of," said Cheryl. "I hope and pray that this was just a rogue group and unusual behavior. I know that it shouldn’t color the whole Marine Corps. But it was very, very tragic and brutal and we are very thankful for what was handed down today.”