A St. Paul man was sentenced Friday to 21 years in prison for fatally attacking a man on his 40th birthday.
Ronald D. Smaller, 25, was convicted in January of two counts of second-degree murder without intent for attacking Eduardo Alberto Figueroa at Freddy's Tiki Hut in Maplewood in 2014.
Ramsey County District Court Judge Jennifer Frisch rejected pleas from Smaller's attorney for the lowest prison sentence recommended by state guidelines, about 15 years. She gave the maximum.
Frisch said she was "taken aback" by defense attorney Ryan Pacyga's arguments in court that "intimated" that Figueroa was the aggressor or invited the attack. Figueroa and the bar's owner had asked Smaller and his group to quiet down just before the assault.
"The behavior that you exhibited … is inhumane," Frisch told Smaller.
According to court documents: Smaller was yelling into a phone and refused to quiet down. A woman with Smaller grabbed Figueroa's daughter's hair.
Figueroa, who had stopped at his favorite bar for a birthday drink, intervened. Brandon J. Smith, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison for his role, and Smaller punched and kicked him in the head as he lay unconscious on the ground.
Figueroa, who had heart disease, died of fatal cardiac arrhythmia on Nov. 12.
Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Elizabeth Lamin argued for the maximum term, noting that Smaller landed one more kick before he left.
"[Figueroa's] head bounced like a football," she said. "Don't tell me, 'Aw shucks.'"
"[Figueroa] knew when he was approaching a situation like that things can go bad," Pacyga argued in response. "He made the decision …"
Smaller asked for forgiveness.
"I'm sorry for what happened," Smaller said.
Figueroa's wife, Maria Figueroa, and two of the couple's three daughters, Karina and Extacy Figueroa, submitted victim impact statements that were read by Lamin. They described Figueroa as a loving husband, father and grandfather whose phone constantly rang from friends and family seeking his help with welding, mechanical and other work.
"We've lost a heart of gold," said his wife's letter.
Extacy Figueroa, 18, was with her father the night of the attack. She told the court the trauma caused her to quit her job and makes it difficult for her to attend school.
"It's haunted me every day since," she said of the attack.
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708