Fraser man sentenced to prison in 2019 'sucker punch' death

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

St. Clair Shores — A 33-year-old Fraser man charged in the 2019 death of a St. Clair Shores resident in a bar fight has been sentenced to eight to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to a charge of manslaughter.

Hatum Akrawi had been charged in district court with second-degree murder in the December 2019 death of Shawn Kubic, 47, which witnesses said occurred when Akrawi “sucker-punched” Kubic when he turned to talk to a friend inside Kapones Sport Tavern in St. Clair Shores. Witnesses said after Kubic fell to the floor Akrawi’s friend, John Rittenberry, poured his drink on Kubic as he and Akrawi left the bar.

Kubic, who was bleeding and unconscious, was rushed to St. John Hospital where he was initially listed in critical condition. He later died from injuries including to the back of his head when he landed on the floor.

Shawn Kubic

Akrawi was arrested the next afternoon and initially charged with assault to do great bodily harm, a 10-year felony and was released on $50,000 bond. The charge was amended to second-degree murder, which can carry up to life in prison. But a St. Clair Shores District Court judge dismissed the murder offense and bound it over to Macomb Circuit Court for trial on the manslaughter charge, Macomb Prosecutor Peter Lucido said. Lucido described it as a tragic case.

On Friday, Akrawi pleaded guilty to the lesser manslaughter offense after apologizing to Kubic’s family in Judge Michael Servito’s courtroom.

“So sorry. There’s no excuse,” Akrawi said as several of Kubic’s relatives looked on. “There’s nothing I can do to make what I did not happen again. I wish I could. Sorry to the family more than anything because they have to live with what I did forever too. It’s terrible.”

Kubic’s relatives, including his mother, Kathy Zelmanski, and the victim’s sister, Kelly Ingels, gave victim impact statements to Servito, asking Akrawi be punished to the full extent of law. They stressed they found no comfort in his apology.

The victim’s relatives said they were disappointed by the expected lighter sentence and were told it would be difficult to achieve a second-degree murder charge or even an assault to do great bodily harm conviction in an incident involving just one punch being thrown.

“My son did nothing to him, he didn’t exchange words with him, he didn’t deserve this,” Kathy Zelmanski said after Friday’s court hearing. “I will never see my son again. I don’t think its fair that man may do only eight years in prison for taking someone’s life. His attorney described it as nothing more  than an accident. But it was no accident. ”

She explained Rittenberry was jealous because Kubic had spoke to his girlfriend, a woman Kubic had known for several years. The family contends Rittenberry — not charged in the death but who still faces an assault and battery misdemeanor charge for pouring his drink on the unconscious Kubic — provoked Akrawi to punch the victim.

“The case is over and they took him (Akrawi) off to prison,” said Zelmanski. “But I guarantee we will be waiting for when he is eligible for parole and plan to argue with the parole board that he not be released and be made to serve his full sentence.”

Kubic, described as an easy-going robotics engineer who loved to play hockey, was divorced but survived by a 17-year-old daughter, his mother said.

“It has been especially hard on her,” Zelmanski said. “She has had a very difficult time coping with his death and getting on with her own life this past year.”

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