SNOW HILL — A Pennsylvania man found guilty in February of two counts of reckless endangerment for stabbing two juveniles on the Boardwalk during a fight last summer was sentenced this week to a combined 10 years with all but three years suspended.
For three days-plus in February, a Worcester County jury heard testimony in the cases against Harold Nunez-Dominguez, now 20, of Harrisburg, Pa., who was charged with two counts of attempted murder, first- and second-degree assault and reckless endangerment for his role in a major melee on the Boardwalk last June 9. After deliberating for about three hours, the jury returned with guilty verdicts on the lesser reckless endangerment counts and sentencing was deferred at that time.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, virtually shutting down the criminal court system for several months. Back in court for sentencing on Wednesday, Nunez-Dominguez was sentenced to five years with all but 18 months suspended for each of the reckless endangerment counts, which would be served consecutively. Combined, Nunez-Dominguez was sentenced to 10 years with all but 36 months, or three years, suspended.
However, because he was held without bond initially after the incident last June until the time of his trial in February, and because COVID-19 postponed his sentencing hearings, Nunez-Dominguez has already served 13 months.
Reckless endangerment is considered a misdemeanor, which makes Nunez-Dominguez eligible for parole at 25% of the sentence or in this case nine months. Because Nunez-Dominguez has already served 13 months, he has already surpassed that nine-month minimum threshold for parole eligibility.
The case was an interesting one from the beginning. According to the facts in the case, a major fight broke out on the Boardwalk at Caroline Street around 12:30 a.m. last June 9 involving a friend of Nunez-Dominguez and a larger group of individuals including the eventual two victims. Defense attorney Richard Brueckner argued during trial the larger group was beating the defendant’s friend to the point Nunez-Dominguez feared for his friend’s life.
The fact Nunez-Dominguez reached in his pocket and pulled out a pocket knife before jumping into the fray was not disputed during trial. It was also not disputed Nunez-Dominguez ultimately stabbed two individuals involved in the melee. However, the defense argued Nunez-Dominguez was left with little recourse but to enter the fight and evoked his right under Maryland law to defend himself and/or others with the appropriate level of response.
Just how much force is the appropriate or valid amount of force appears to have been the deciding factor for the jury, which acquitted Nunez-Dominguez on the most serious counts including attempted murder, but found him guilty of two counts of reckless endangerment.
Pulling a knife out during a fight on the Boardwalk on a crowded night in June certainly qualifies as reckless, but did the injuries sustained by the victims, who admittedly were combatants in the fight, elevate the case to attempted murder? After deliberating for three hours, the jury believed it didn’t. Verdict sheets do not require jurors to explain how they reached their conclusion, but it appears in this case they believed the defense’s self-defense theory.
Around 12:30 a.m. on June 9, Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) detectives working in a plainclothes capacity downtown reportedly heard a loud commotion coming from the ocean block of Caroline Street. As the detectives turned the corner, they observed a large fight in progress.
According to police reports, the detectives were approached by a 15-year-old juvenile male who was holding his abdomen with both arms as blood dripped from his midsection. As the officers approached, the 15-year-old juvenile male collapsed in the street on Baltimore Avenue and the officers immediately began attending to him.
The second victim, a 17-year-old juvenile male ran toward the officers near the west side of Baltimore Avenue pleading “please help me,” over and over according to police reports. The officers observed the juvenile had a laceration to the right side of his abdomen with internal organs protruding. According to police reports, the second victim pleaded multiple times “please don’t let me die,” as the officers attended to him and waited for the ambulance to arrive.
The 15-year-old victim was transported to Peninsula Regional Medical Center, while the 17-year-old victim was flown to Shock Trauma. Both were taken into immediate emergency surgery and both survived the stabbing injuries. Before the juveniles were transported, they were able to provide a physical description of their alleged assailant to the police officers.
It was later determined the entire incident was captured on the City Watch video surveillance system. The video reportedly shows a large fight erupt on the Boardwalk near its intersection with Caroline Street. The two victims were involved in the altercation. The video also reportedly shows Nunez-Dominguez swinging a knife and stabbing both victims.
OCPD detectives posted surveillance still pictures of the suspect throughout the following day via social media. Shortly thereafter, OCPD detectives got a call from employees at a hotel on 13th Street indicating Nunez-Dominguez had been a guest at the establishment. The employees provided detectives with room registration information that included a copy of his driver’s license. Video surveillance reportedly shows Nunez-Dominguez leaving the hotel with friends at 1:22 a.m. The vehicle he was driving left Ocean City at 1:48 a.m.
Around 10 a.m. on June 10, an OCPD detective received a phone call from Nunez-Dominguez, during which he stated he was scared and admitted he had been involved in the fight. During the call, Nunez-Dominguez told the detective “I hit someone with a knife,” according to police reports.
Nunez-Dominguez was held in custody in Pennsylvania for about two weeks following the alleged admission. Two weeks after his arrest, he waived extradition and was transported back to Worcester County where he was charged initially with first- and second-degree assault. He was later indicted on two counts of attempted second-degree murder.