A Florida Dunkin’ worker has avoided jail after being convicted for punching an elderly customer to death.
27-year-old Corey Pujols plead guilty to a battery charge for fatally punching 77-year-old Vonelle Cook in Tampa on May 5, 2021.
However, after hearing that Cook was killed for using a racial slur, Judge Christine Marlewski sentenced Pujols to just two years of house arrest.
According to WTVT-TV, Pujols got into an altercation with Cook, who has ordered in the drive-thru but became angry about the service he received.
As a result, he parked his car and entered the restaurant.
Employees said he was yelling about a lack of customer service.
They described Cook as a frequent customer who was “regularly troublesome and abusive,” WTVT reported.
Prosecutors said Cook was “verbally abusive” to employees, including Pujols, who asked him to leave the store.
Police said the elderly customer became even angrier at that point and called Pujols the N-word, WTVT reported.
The Dunkin’ employee demanded that Cook not call him the name again, but he repeated the insult, and Pujols proceeded to punch him in the jaw, according to police.
Following the strike, Cook lost consciousness and fell to the floor, where he hit his head.
Tampa Fire Rescue transported him to the hospital, but he died from his injuries three days later.
An autopsy revealed a fracture in his skull and multiple contusions in his brain.
Initially, Pujols was charged with aggravated manslaughter.
However, prosecutors accepted a plea deal in which Pujols pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of felony battery in order to receive a lighter sentence.
Following the deal, Judge Marlewski sentenced Pujols to two years on house arrest, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
She also ordered Pujols to complete 200 hours of community service and attend a course on anger management.
Dunkin' worker who fatally punched 77-year-old customer sentenced to 2 years of house arrest https://t.co/959lj8mFp7
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Grayson Kamm, a spokesman for the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office provided WTVT with a statement on Pujos’s sentence:
This outcome holds the defendant accountable while taking into account the totality of the circumstances—the aggressive approach and despicable racial slur used by the victim, along with the defendant’s age, lack of criminal record, and lack of intent to cause the victim’s death.
Prosecutors said they considered Cook’s criminal past and behavior which made him an “unsympathetic victim,” the outlet notes.
According to court records, the 77-year-old victim was a sex offender.