A former University of Maryland student who pleaded guilty to throwing a deadly punch outside a College Park bar was granted a new sentence earlier this month, a decision that will allow the conviction to disappear from his criminal record.
Prince George’s County Judge Albert W. Northrop ordered the manslaughter conviction of Arasp Biparva in the 2014 killing of Jack Godfrey vacated. The judge also granted Biparva probation before judgment, which means the charges can later be expunged from public records.
The modified sentence will help Biparva, 25, as he finds a job in accounting, according to his attorney.
“Currently the conviction will interfere with the application process and prevent Mr. Biparva from obtaining the certifications he needs to advance his career,” his attorney, Barry Helfand, said in a request for the modified sentence.
The judge’s decision has devastated Godfrey’s family, which already was distraught that Biparva received no prison time when he was sentenced for manslaughter in April.
“My family feels like he [Biparva] shouldn’t be able to get a highflying job in finance,” Godfrey’s mother, Nicola Bridges, said. “He should have a McDonald’s hat on his head or a janitor’s mop in his hand. Jack won’t have a career, a wife, a life.”
Godfrey, 21, was sucker-punched and knocked unconscious outside Cornerstone Bar in College Park when a brawl involving 15 to 20 people began around 2 a.m. in March 2013, according to police and prosecutors. Godfrey, who was not involved in the fight, happened to be standing in the area when Biparva struck him.
Godfrey survived the impact after several surgeries and physical therapy but died in his sleep in November 2014. A state medical examiner later determined that he had suffered a seizure and other injuries stemming from the assault.
Biparva pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death and in April was sentenced to three years of probation and no prison time.
At Biparva’s sentencing hearing that month, Helfand said his client had no criminal record and had taken responsibility for his actions. Helfand said that Biparva had been assaulted during the brawl and was reacting to the violence around him when he accidentally punched Godfrey.
“My client is genuinely remorseful for the incident and is grateful to the judge for his decision,” Helfand said of the modified sentence.
At the sentencing, the judge said he would be open to revisiting the sentence at later date.
After a second hearing in September, Northrop issued an order Oct. 11 in response to the request for a new sentence.
“There is no question but that this is a tragic and most unfortunate case,” the judge wrote. “Having reviewed once again the entire matter along with the numerous letters offered and the arguments of counsel, the court is satisfied that the balance of justice is on the side of the Defendant’s motion.”
Biparva, who was a University of Maryland student at the time of the incident, was expelled from the school but went on to earn a degree in New York,
Prosecutors asked for six years in prison at his April sentencing hearing.
At the more recent hearing, prosecutors opposed Biparva’s request for any changes, said John Erzen, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office.
“Those injuries were caused by the punch that Mr. Biparva threw,” Erzen said. “We felt that because somebody actually lost their life, this was a conviction that needed to stay with Mr. Biparva for the rest of his life.”
Godfrey’s mother, who runs a special-needs nonprofit group in California called Capability Ranch, said she’s upset that the manslaughter charge will one day be erased from Biparva’s record as if the incident never happened. She also said the judge’s decision shows deep disparities and inconsistencies in the legal system.
“This sends a message to any young person that if you seriously injure somebody and they ultimately pass away . . . it doesn’t matter. You can get off,” she said.
“Now it’s like nothing happened,” Bridges said. “The guilty is gone.”