An alcohol-augmented fight which escalated into a fatal shooting over two years ago in the BlueWater Lagoon neighborhood of Parker, AZ was the center of a court proceeding Monday which saw Sean Ackerman get 10.5 years in prison for manslaughter.
Ackerman, 46, who was originally charged with homicide for the shooting death of his older neighbor Daniel Porter, had already pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was in La Paz County Superior Court on a day-long hearing. Dressed in an orange jumpsuit, Ackerman sat next to his attorney Matthew Newman, with County Attorney Tony Rogers representing the prosecution at the opposite table. Judge Robert C. Olson heard from both sides as they each attempted to demonstrate aggravating and mitigating factors which would determine the length of Ackerman’s sentence.
Mr. Rogers gave an impassioned opening statement, saying that Ackerman’s house had been a party spot in the neighborhood. He implied that Ackerman was a “man of means” and that others would flock around to drink his alcohol and party at his house. He said that Ackerman had been drinking that day, and that his dispute with Daniel Porter was long-running. He told the court that Ackerman ran outside to confront Porter, that he had brought a gun and shot him “execution-style” with a bullet entering a raised palm which Rogers says is the universal sign of surrender. He then alleged that Ackerman had planted a weapon on Porter’s body, placing a knife next to his hand which he had dipped in blood, before fleeing to California. Ackerman bought two disposable cellphones, he told the court, sending one to his wife so that they could communicate without it being traced to him. These facts, Rogers said, demonstrated that Ackerman knew he was guilty, and that he didn’t try to save Porter’s life or face up to the decisions that he had made.
Mr. Newman responded on behalf of his client, taking issue with Rogers’ characterization of what happened. He said that Ackerman was not a rich man, and that his house was not the perpetual party scene that Rogers had painted it to be. He focused his opening statement on the behavior of the victim that day, saying that Porter’s blood alcohol content was measured at a .29 and saying that he had been in an “alcohol-fueled rage” on the day of the incident. Newman described numerous attempts of Porter to start a fight with Ackerman over parking that day, and how his behavior had been noted by other neighbors who had talked about calling the police on him. He said that Porter had arrived to Ackerman’s place that day with potential weapons including a “homemade club” in his truck, and suggested that Ackerman could reasonably have considered the visit a threat to his life.
Ultimately the defense did not argue against the allegations that Ackerman planted a knife, fled the scene and hid from the police for a few days. Newman said he does not know if Ackerman planted the knife, but argued that those decisions were made in a shocked, incoherent state after the incident had happened, and said that Daniel Porter’s behavior amounted to “big mitigating factors” in sentencing.
The proceeding continued with witnesses including neighbors, law enforcement officers and others giving testimony that was intended to present either aggravating or mitigating factors in favor of less or more prison time. The sentencing options ranged from 7 to 21 years, with Olson hearing from family members of the parties too, some of whom were present in the courtroom and some who recorded video statements for the court.
Ackerman testified on his own behalf, too, citing Daniel Porter’s actions as being what led to his death. “I believe Daniel Porter had a death wish,” he told the court, adding that Porter thought he was “popping his tires” and doing other things to aggravate him.
Judge Olson sentenced Ackerman to 10.5 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections after accepting one aggravating factor – the older age of the victim – and one mitigating factor – no criminal history.