Surgeon killer could be first to get10-year term under one-punch laws

The Sydney Morning Herald

By Adam Cooper

March 1, 2019

A man who fatally hit a surgeon at Box Hill Hospital could become the first person jailed under Victoria's one-punch laws and be given a mandatory minimum of 10 years behind bars.

Joseph Esmaili, 24, was last year found guilty of manslaughter after a jury found he killedPatrick Pritzwald-Stegmann by punching the heart surgeon once to the face in the foyer area of the hospital on May 30, 2017. Meanwhile, the surgeon's grieving widow says the remorseless killer compounded herfamily's trauma through a lengthy trial.

Joseph Esmaili could be jailed for 10 years for manslaughter. 

Mr Pritzwald-Stegmann's wife, Christine, said her husband's death had devastated her and their daughters, who were too scared to visit their father while on life support.

Almost two years on, she didn't know how to discuss "the bad man, Joseph Esmaili" with the girls, she read from a victim impact statement.

"Whenever they wish for something it's for their papa to come back," she said.

Christine paused before reading her statement to make sure Esmaili was listening, and said she was angry at his lack of remorse and "callous" refusal to accept responsibility.

His crime had caused a grief so powerful it winded her and she constantly missed the "most capable person I have ever met".

"Patrick always had my back. I have lost my confidant, my biggest supporter and my rock," she said.

Mr Pritzwald-Stegmann was unconscious as he fell, the Supreme Court has heard, andsuffered critical injuries when his head hit the tiled floor. The father of young twin girls had

his life support turned off four weeks later.

Mr Pritzwald-Stegmann and Esmaili exchanged words after the surgeon approached the young man and his friends and told them not to smoke in a designated non-smoking area outside the hospital.

Prosecutors confirmed to Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth on Friday they had filed papers requesting Esmaili be jailed for at least a decade.

The 2014 laws were introduced following a series of one-punch deaths but have never been used. In 2017 prosecutors withdrew applications to use the laws against Richard Vincec, who killed Jaiden Walker through a punch thrown in a Melbourne street, and Andrew Lee, who 

Chief Crown prosecutor Brendan Kissane, QC, on Friday said Esmaili should be jailed for the mandatory 10 years because his crime satisfied the law's key four elements: that his punchwas deliberate, to the head, that Mr Pritzwald-Stegmann wouldn't have expected it was coming, and that Esmaili probably knew the surgeon wouldn't have been expecting a punch. then the punch was delivered," Mr Kissane said.

Defence barrister John Desmond argues Esmaili meets an exception to the mandatory sentence law, due to mental illness. He said his client was diagnosed with a personality disorder that affected his judgment and  "He lashed out as a matter of survival," Mr Desmond said, quoting a medical report by psychologist Luke Armstrong.

Aubrey Almeida, the president of the Australian and New Zealand association for cardiac surgeons, said Mr Pritzwald-Stegmann's death was a tragedy for the community given he would have seen 200 patients a year, and young doctors could never get his mentorship.

His skill, knowledge and passion was all lost in a moment when he was fatally injured withthinking of patients, by asking people not to smoke outside hospital. Esmaili, who was on bail for theft charges at the time, will be sentenced at a later date.

with AAP

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