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Ex-Wyoming player pleads guilty

Image: Wyoming's Luke Martinez (© Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports)
Former Wyoming guard Luke Martinez avoids a felony record.
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LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP)

A Wyoming basketball player accused of kicking a man in the face during a bar fight last winter has been ordered to serve jail time and pay $58,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge.

Luke Martinez of Bismarck, ND, entered the plea Monday in circuit court in Laramie, according to Joshua Merseal, deputy Albany County prosecutor.

Magistrate Matthew Castano sentenced Martinez to 45 days in jail and ordered him to pay the restitution. Martinez started serving the sentence Monday, Merseal said.

Martinez was accused of kicking Parfait Nayigihugu, who was unconscious at the time, outside a Laramie bar on Dec. 30.

Martinez had faced a felony charge of aggravated assault and battery, which carried a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Martinez immediately was suspended from the team and never played again the rest of the season, which was his senior year.

His trial had been set to start Aug. 26.

Merseal said the case against Martinez changed when Nayigihugu told prosecutors on July 31 that he was unable to attend the trial because of job commitments in another state.

''You need a victim for an assault charge,'' Merseal said.

As a result, the prosecution had no choice but to dismiss the felony charge and refile it as a misdemeanor, he said.

In an email to Merseal, Nayigihugu said he was OK with the lesser offense against Martinez.

''I do not choose for the defendant to have a felony on his record,'' he wrote. ''This is my personal decision. I want to put this situation behind me and move on with my life, as I'm sure Lucas would like to as well.''

Martinez's attorney Thomas Fleener did not immediately return a telephone message for comment Tuesday.

Nayigihugu filed a lawsuit against Martinez seeking unspecified damages for pain and suffering, severe emotional distress, lost income and other issues. His attorney in the civil case, Steve Aron, was not available Tuesday, according to his office.

Before the incident, Martinez was a starting guard for the Cowboys and was leading them in scoring, averaging 14.5 points a game. The Cowboys were off to a 12-0 record to start the season at the time of his suspension. They ended up 20-14 overall and 4-12 in the Mountain West Conference.

Tagged: Wyoming, Luke Martinez

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