updated 8/14/2009 8:12:02 PM ET 2009-08-15T00:12:02

A man convicted of helping run what police called a "fight club" that set developmentally disabled residents of a state-run center against each other was sentenced to three years in prison Friday.

A Nueces County jury spared Jesse Salazar the maximum punishment in the abuse scandal that surfaced with cell phone videos of employees at the Corpus Christi State School provoking residents into fights.

Salazar, who no longer works at the facility, was convicted this week of intentionally causing injury to a disabled person. He had faced up to 10 years in prison, but jurors returned with a lighter sentence Friday afternoon after being split 11-1 earlier in the day.

Salazar was disappointed that he did not get probation but felt the sentence was fair, said his attorney, Cecil Starcher.

"He's very remorseful about what happened. He knew it was wrong," Starcher said.

Salazar, 25, was one of six former employees charged in the scandal. He was the first to stand trial and will be the first to serve prison time.

'It was dumb'
During the penalty phase of the trial, Salazar had testified that he had grown close to some of the residents seen in the videos and was sorry for what happened.

Video: Officials face charges for fight club at school "It was dumb," Salazar said Thursday. "I'm sorry for what took place and it shouldn't have happened."

One video showed a resident running around a room screaming while another resident tried to hit him. Salazar could be seen filming the melee with his cell phone.

For more than a year, authorities said, staff on the night shift in one of the Corpus Christi facility's dorms staged fights among the residents. They instigated the bouts with direct commands and pranks aimed at spurring the residents to turn on each other, police said.

Almost 20 videos of the fights were discovered in March when a cell phone containing the images was found at a clothing store and turned in to police. The four videos shown to jurors in Salazar's case were filmed in early 2008.

Vincent Johnson, another former employee, pleaded guilty last week and received a two-year suspended jail sentence. Another former worker also pleaded guilty, and three others await trial.

More indictments could be in the works. Corpus Christi Police Detective Curtis Abbott testified this week that the number of suspects in the case had risen to 12 and of those, cases had been prepared against at least three more than the six already charged.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments