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Attacker's no-show at sentencing leaves victim without closure

For Ronald Graham, appearing for the sentencing hearing his assailant missed was yet another detour on the road to closure.

On the night of June 27, while Graham was tending to tomato plants at the Union Park community garden, he was attacked by two men, one of them Eric Ivan Ramirez, 23. Ramirez pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and was sentenced Aug. 24 to three years' probation with no additional jail time for the attack. 

"He'd already been in jail 30 days at this point," Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert said. "The judge didn't impose any additional jail time."

Heckert said the judge imposed a no-contact order with the victim as a condition of Ramirez's release, but for Graham, the release was an outrage.

Graham had filed a certificate of victim notification with prosecuting attorney David Orr and was supposed to be notified of all proceedings involving the case. But according to a Claim of Violation of Crime Victim's Rights filed Aug. 26, Graham learned of his attacker's release when he saw Eric Ramirez on the street Aug. 24. 

"There was a hearing, and you should've been notified because the document was filed and legal," Randi Brock told Graham outside the courtroom following a new sentencing hearing scheduled for Friday. Brock runs the West Side Beautification Facebook group and the community garden at Union Park.

Friday's resentencing hearing was scheduled to give Graham the opportunity to make a statement. But Ramirez never showed, despite clear communication Wednesday from his defense attorney about the court date. A warrant was issued for his arrest.

"The defendant didn't come," Heckert said. "As soon as we get him, we'll reschedule."

Graham's mood outside the courtroom Friday was a combination of disappointment, resignation and fear. 

"Nothing's gotten resolved," Graham said. "We'll just have to come back and do this all over again."

Graham said he's pushing through deep fears, but sees making a statement as integral to finding closure in the aftermath of his attack. As other defendants entered and left the courtroom for their initial appearances, each swing of the door was nerve-racking for Graham.

"Every time I heard the door open, I had to brace myself," Graham said.

Upon Ramirez's arrest, a new sentencing hearing will be scheduled, forcing Graham to make quick plans to give his prepared statement in the event that Ramirez is arrested over the weekend.

"He has to wait for them to call him, and then he'll have, like, two hours," Brock said.

Despite his anxieties, Graham is determined to see his path to closure to the end.

"Ultimately, it's about finding a way to let this go," Graham said. "As much as I'm afraid, I've got to make my statement."

Reach newsroom assistant Nick Morgan at nmorgan@mailtribune.com.