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Plea deal reached in beating death of N.Ky. man, murder charge dropped

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The man on trial for the death of a Northern Kentucky athlete reached a plea deal Tuesday that includes the dropping of a murder charge and likely no jail time.

Justin Werner was charged with beating Bryan Stevenson to death outside a Louisville restaurant on May 30, 2010. As part of his deal to plead guilty to multiple other charges, the murder charge will be dropped.

Werner pleaded guilty to assault under extreme emotional disturbance, trafficking in a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. Werner faces up to three years in jail time for these charges, but the prosecution is only recommending five years probation and Werner has already served two years of house arrest that will count toward his sentencing.

A sentencing date will be determined on June 4.

"The murder charge was amended to manslaughter 1st degree before the trial started," Leland Hulbert, Asst. Commonwealth Attorney said. "The manslaughter charge was reduced to assault under extreme emotional disturbance due to inconsistent witness testimony. Werner will likely be probated by the Court."

Stevenson's father says the family is in shock over the deal. He says it was not what they expected, but they are relieved Werner was not acquitted.

Stevenson was in Louisville with friends for a Memorial Day weekend softball tournament when he died. He was 26.

Werner's murder trial started Wednesday, but was set to begin again Tuesday after being on a break since Friday because of the holiday weekend.

Instead, a plea deal was reached mid-trial.

On Thursday, witnesses took the stand, including one man who said he saw the fight break out.

Paul Demoss testified that someone spit on another person, which caused the fight to start.

"I reached down and picked him up, and reached down, and kept saying wake up, you got knocked out. And he wasn't waking up," said Demoss.

Demoss couldn't identify who threw the fatal blow that killed the 26-year-old.

William Schindler also testified against Werner Thursday. Schindler is friends with Werner, and was originally charged in the murder. Charges against Schindler were dropped.

David Pryor and Donald Hays were also originally charged with murder in the case. They also accepted a plea deal, pleading guilty to assault instead of murder.

Werner's lawyer was trying to prove that Hays was involved and delivered the fatal blow.

Friends and family of Stevenson are remembering the baseball player with a golf tournament this weekend.

On June 2, the 2012 Bryan Stevenson Invitational will be held at The Willows at the Kenton County Golf Club in Independence.

Money raised from the tournament will go towards the Bryan Stevenson Scholarship Fund, helping Scott High School students. In April, they hosted a baseball tournament to raise money for the fund.

For more information on the 2012 Bryan Stevenson Invitational, email StevensonInvitational@hotmail.com .

Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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