Jennifer Grosso, the girlfriend of pro-surfer Emery Kauanui, who was attacked and killed by Seth Cravens and members of the Bird Rock Bandits in 2007, was given a Citizens of Courage award.
Grosso and four others received their awards Thursday at a luncheon at the Westin Gaslamp Quarter Hotel. It was the 20th annual event recognizing key witnesses in criminal prosecutions or survivors of violent crimes.
During the trial, Grosso testified that Cravens, 22, hit her 24-year-old boyfriend with a single punch in May 2007, causing him to hit the pavement.
Prosecutors said it was murder, and in November 2008, a jury agreed, convicting him of second-degree murder. On Feb. 2 Cravens was sentenced to 10 years to life in prison.
"He just gave him one extremely hard punch, and Emery just fell back immediately," Grosso testified. "It was like the lights went out in Emery."
Grosso was the first witness in the trial. She described the fighting words spewed by her boyfriend, the defendant and four other men -- Orlando Osuna, Eric House, Matthew Yanke and Hank Hendricks -- at the La Jolla Brewhouse bar just minutes before the fatal confrontation. Grosso told the jury what she saw when she drove to her boyfriend's house, where Kauanui was fighting in the street with House.
Grosso said Kauanui had lost the fight with House but manged to stand up. She said Cravens then hit Kauanui with a single punch.
"I heard his skull crack when it hit the pavement," Grosso testified. "I mean, at that point, after the punch happened, it was like, silence, and there was like a 'crack.' It was just like a 'slap', a clean break, and you could hear it. I mean, it sounded like something pinged off the concrete, and then immediately after that there was a pool of blood that started streaming from the back of Emery's head."
"I was screaming at the top of my lungs. I remember looking at Seth, saying, 'Why? Why did you to this to me?' He just looked at me," she said.
Defense attorney Mary Ellen Attridge said Cravens was simply defending himself against an aggressive Kauanui. In her opening statement to the jury, Attridge described Kauanui's death as "tragic" but not not a murder.