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Jury reaches guilty verdict in Austin attempted murder case

Matt Peterson, Austin Daily Herald, Minn. –

After five days of trial and many hours of deliberating, a jury reached a guilty verdict Friday afternoon while Galuak Michael Rotgai — on trial for attempted second-degree murder — sat showing no emotion.

Along with attempted second-degree murder, Rotgai, 28, of Austin, was found guilty in Mower County Court of first-degree assault for hitting a man in the back of the head with a baseball bat on April 8 and again striking the victim as he lay on the ground.

Rotgai’s sentencing is Nov. 8, and he could face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $30,000 fine.

Rotgai’s victim, a 39-year-old Sudanese man, lay in St. Marys hospital for a long time, unresponsive. Mayo Clinic would not comment on the victim’s condition throughout the case.

After reaching its guilty verdict, the jury also decided in a special verdict: that the victim fell helpless; Rotgai was aware the victim was unconscious on the second blow; the victim’s injuries were so severe, he would have died without medical attention; and the injuries are so severe that the victim will suffer significant loss in quality of life. All are factors that will come into play during Rotgai’s sentencing.

According to the court complaint, a witness at the crime scene — City Limit Apartments in northwest Austin along Highway 218 — called 911 and reported that a 39-year-old Sudanese man had been struck in the head after an argument. When a deputy arrived, the victim was lying on the floor, not breathing or blinking and surrounded by bodily fluids, according to the complaint.

The deputy saw three men standing in the kitchen, one of whom was Rotgai. The complaint then states that Rotgai told the deputy a man in a white shirt was the assailant and fled the scene; however, one of the witnesses told the deputy, “He’s right here,” and pointed at Rotgai.

The deputy arrested Rotgai and took him to a squad car while two other officers gave the victim CPR and detected a heartbeat after four minutes of resuscitation.

Detectives interviewed the witnesses and Rotgai. One witness heard a loud argument and a “thud,” according to the complaint. It also states that when this witness came out of a bedroom, Rotgai was standing over the motionless victim and struck him two more times on the back of the head. The witness then said he took the bat from Rotgai and called 911. Deputies later found the bat in the witness’s bedroom, who said he didn’t know how it got there, according to the complaint.

Another witness said he was drinking with Rotgai when the victim entered the apartment and asked for a DVD or CD, at which point Rotgai grabbed the bat and struck the victim and once more while he lay on the floor, according to the complaint. The witness also said the victim had no weapon on him and was not acting aggressively before he was attacked.

Rotgai claimed he was sleeping on his mattress in the living room and was awaken by commotion and saw the victim fall, hit his head on the kitchen table and then the floor, the complaint states. Rotgai also said he’s never met the victim, did not own a bat and said the other men in the room claimed the victim was there to kill people, the complaint states. After that, Rotgai changed his story and said he knew the victim and was afraid of him. Rotgai added the victim came to get a DVD or CD and threatened to kill him, according to the complaint. Rotgai admitted to grabbing the bat and hitting the victim while the victim kicked back. According to the compliant, Rotgai admitted to hitting the victim once more after the victim fell.

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