A Black restaurant worker who punched an elderly white man — who later died — over a racial slur has been sentenced to two years of house arrest.
Initially, 27-year-old Corey Pujols was charged with manslaughter and faced up to 30 years in prison. However, after a plea deal where prosecutors considered the fact that Cook “used possibly the most aggressive and offensive term in the English language.”
As part of his plea agreement, Pujols must complete 200 hours of community service, attend an anger management course and spend three years on probation following completion of his sentence, The Associated Press reported.
The fatal incident happened on May 5, 2021, Pujols was working at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Tampa, Florida, when 77-year-old Vonelle Cook tried to order coffee at the restaurant’s drive-through, court records say, as reported by The Associated Press. But attendants couldn’t hear him, so Cook parked his vehicle, walked into the restaurant, and complained about the poor service, according to investigators.
In response to Cook’s complaint, Pujols punched the old man in the jaw and knocked him to the ground. Cook suffered a fractured skull and brain contusions and died three days later, an autopsy said, according to CBS News.
CBS News has more details of the report:
A Florida Dunkin’ employee accused of fatally punching a customer who used a racist slur against him pleaded guilty to felony battery and was sentenced to two years of house arrest. A Tampa judge on Monday also ordered Corey Pujols, 27, to complete 200 hours of community service and attend an anger management course.
Pujols was initially charged with manslaughter.
In agreeing to a plea deal, prosecutors considered the “totality of the circumstances,” including Pujols’ youth, his lack of criminal history and the fact that he did not intend to cause Cook’s death, Grayson Kamm, a spokesman for Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren, told the Tampa Bay Times. He said they also considered the behavior of Cook and what he said.
“Two of the primary factors were the aggressive approach the victim took toward the defendant and everyone working with the defendant, and that the victim repeatedly used possibly the most aggressive and offensive term in the English language,” Kamm told the newspaper.