One of the teenagers who attacked local actor Derek Whitener outside Dallas' Cityplace Target in January pleaded guilty this week to aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury, Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson announced Thursday.
Zantrell Sauls, 17, will spend four months in jail and 10 years on probation for the assault and an unrelated robbery. Sauls and another unidentified teenager beat Whitener with a wooden rod Jan. 14, fracturing his skull. He spent almost two weeks in intensive care.
Whitener told Target employees that the teens wearing gorilla masks were trying to open car doors in the lot. According to a lawsuit Whitener filed against the big-box store, a security guard told him not to call the police and that the store would handle it. The security guard asked the teens to leave the property, but they came back to attack Whitener after he was done shopping, according to the lawsuit.
“So we heard that you fear us. We are going to teach you what fear is,” Sauls and his said accomplice said before the attack, according to Whitener.
Johnson said that Whitener approved the deal.
"We worked diligently and closely with the victim in this case for this outcome. His wishes were to make sure that Zantrell Sauls received an equitable punishment for his involvement and something comparable to the other defendant in this case," Johnson said in a statement. "The victim is focused on his recovery and putting this vicious crime behind him."
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According to a report from KTVT-TV, Sauls' unnamed accomplice received a seven-year sentence for his role in the beating.
Grady Whitener, Derek Whitener's father, said in a victim impact statement that he'd feared his son would die in the days after the attack, according to a report from the courtroom by CBSDFW.com.
"There were days that we thought our family was gonna lose him. The seriousness of this is just unfathomable,” he said. “I can’t fathom and neither can he or any member of our family, and I know I’m not gonna get an answer today, but why could two people, you and your co-conspirator, decide you're just gonna [say] … ‘I know I got an idea. Let’s get some masks and let’s get an improvised weapon, and let’s just go out and try to kill two or three people tonight."
According to court documents filed by Whitener, his injuries are consistent with those of a stroke victim. He remains unable to "perform high-level motor tasks" with his dominant right hand and has difficulty speaking. He "faces a long road to recovery for the foreseeable future," according to the lawsuit, including extensive medical care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and counseling.