After the brawl outside a College Park bar, it seemed that the two men had moved on with their lives.
Jack Godfrey, who had been sucker-punched and knocked unconscious at 2 a.m., recovered from his serious head injuries and went back to his studies at the University of Maryland.
Arasp Biparva, the fellow student who had punched him, pleaded guilty to assault, spent 10 days in jail, was sentenced to probation and paid more than $19,000 in restitution.
But more than a year and a half after the two students crossed paths in 2013, Godfrey died suddenly. A medical examiner determined that he had suffered a seizure and had meningitis and injuries stemming from the night he was punched and hit his head on the ground.
On Friday, their stories again intersected as Biparva, 24, was sentenced in Prince George’s County Circuit Court to an additional three years of probation for involuntary manslaughter in Godfrey’s death.
Judge Albert W. Northrup did not sentence Biparva to additional prison time, a ruling that Godfrey’s father called “infuriating,” “horrifying” and “unfair.”
“Judge Northrup just told the world that my son’s life is worth 10 days,” said John Godfrey, Jack Godfrey’s father. “I can’t believe that my son’s life meant so little.”
At his hearing, Biparva apologized for his actions.
“It’s not lost on me now how lucky I am to be standing here,” said Biparva, who was expelled from the University of Maryland after the incident but went on to earn a degree in New York, where he is an accountant. “I do live with that regret every day. I never meant for any of this to happen.”
Godfrey, 21, and Biparva were outside Cornerstone Bar in March 2013 when a brawl involving 15 to 20 people broke out. Godfrey, who was not involved in the fight, happened to be standing in the area and was suddenly struck in the face.
Godfrey recovered from the immediate serious injuries he had suffered. But it was a slow and painful comeback that drained the family emotionally and financially. Godfrey was missing a section of his skull and underwent multiple surgeries and physical therapy to regain mobility, said his mother, Nicola Bridges. Godfrey’s parents both live in California.
During Friday’s emotional sentencing hearing, Bridges said that despite the difficulty of his lingering problems, her son endured with a smile and optimism for nearly two years before dying in his sleep in November 2014. He was 21.
Bridges tearfully explained that Godfrey’s death ended their family’s legacy, as his only other sibling is unable to have children of his own.
“He was the wedding, the babies, the grandchildren,” Bridges said. “He was the future of our family tree.”
Biparva’s attorney Barry Helfand said his client had been dragged, choked and kicked during the brawl that also included a friend of Biparva’s being knocked to the ground by a passing car. Biparva threw the punch, reacting to the violence around him.
Helfand said his client has no criminal record and has taken responsibility for his actions from the beginning.
“He didn’t even remember . . . committing the crime,” Helfand said. “He went to the police and said, ‘People tell me I struck this young man, and my fist hurts so I must be the one.’ That is how this all started.”
Prosecutors had requested that Biparva serve six years in prison.
“You have someone who ultimately died as a result of Mr. Biparva’s actions,” said John Erzen, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office. “We felt there needed to be an accountability . . . for what the victim went through, not only on the night of the incident but also over the next 18 months and everything he had to endure.”
Before issuing his ruling, Northrup said he appreciated that Biparva dutifully served his first sentence for second-degree assault. Issuing a harsh sentence in the manslaughter case wouldn’t bring Godfrey back or prevent future brawls among college students, Northrup said.
“Tragic situations cause tragic circumstances,” Northrup said, quoting another judge. “It’s a lose-lose.”
Godfrey’s father said his son, who wanted to write screenplays, was the kind of person who would make friends with the kid who didn’t sit “at the cool kids’ table” and helped others with homework. He was kind and took good care of his autistic brother. Above all, his father said, his son was a pacifist — making the pain of his death even more difficult.
“Jack on the night of the attack was given a less than 10 percent chance to live, and it was — frankly — a miracle that he survived in the first place,” John Godfrey said. “And now because of that miracle . . . it granted him a stay of death. But Arasp Biparva killed him, and he’s facing basically no punishment. It is infuriating and unfair.”