BROOKSVILLE — Pictures of a swollen purple eye and a bloodied face were the first pieces of evidence a jury saw Tuesday during a trial of a man accused of savagely beating two victims at a Spring Hill park.
The six jurors winced as assistant state attorney Rob Lewis showed them a poster board with photographs of Domenic Musicaro, then 17, and Kevin Strickland, 30, shortly after they were allegedly beaten with a handgun by Christian Rivera on Jan. 21, 2009.
"This was absolutely senseless," Lewis said in his opening statement. "The only reason this happened was because these two men are different."
Musicaro and Strickland told authorities they had just finished a live-action role-playing game called Amtgard, which involves battles with foam swords, when they were struck by a barrage of paint balls at Amity Trails Park.
Strickland began yelling in the direction of the shooting, Lewis said, before Rivera, 21, jumped from a car to confront them. He allegedly beat them both with a handgun, then demanded money.
Musicaro later went blind in his right eye. Strickland lost his peripheral vision and sustained facial injuries.
Rivera faces three felony charges: two counts of aggravated assault with a handgun and one count of attempted robbery with a handgun. If convicted, he faces between 10 and 45 years in prison.
Four law enforcement officers testified Tuesday, including the two deputies who filed reports the night of the incident and the forensic specialist who examined Amity Trails.
Hernando Sheriff's Detective James Boylan testified that Strickland, Musicaro and the five men in the car with Rivera all said that Rivera pulled a handgun.
However, public defender Mike Amico said in his opening statement that because the gun won't be admitted as evidence, it can't be proved Rivera used one at all.
"Yes, Domenic was struck — but was it with a fist, or a gun?" Amico asked. "The stories evolve over time."'
Amico said if the jury is not absolutely certain a gun was used, they must find Rivera not guilty.
Should that happen, Rivera will still face a separate charge of aggravated battery with great bodily harm following a brawl last year in the county jail. Fellow inmate Raymond Dawson suffered a broken nose and cheekbone in the fight.
Laura Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (352) 848-1432.