updated 5/28/2004 2:40:02 PM ET 2004-05-28T18:40:02

A man was convicted ing the 1998 sword slaying of his stepfather, with jurors settling on a reduced charge after hearing of years of abuse at the hands of the older man.

Mario Jefferson, now 24, was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter Thursday after prosecutors presented a tape where he confessed to killing William Allen.

Jefferson faces probation or up to six years in prison. He was originally charged with second-degree murder, which carries a penalty of 15 to 25 years in prison without parole.

Prosecutors said Jefferson studied martial arts and provoked the deadly confrontation with Allen, 33.

But jurors decided to go with the lesser charge after hearing from Vernita Allen _ Jefferson's mom and William Allen's wife _ that the older man had physically abused and taunted her son throughout their 13 years of marriage.

"Mr. Jefferson seemed to be a very nice young man, despite the apparent hostile environment he was in," said Criminal Court jury foreman Tom Mitchell, chief executive officer of Translucent Technologies. "Everybody on the jury had a lot of sympathy for his situation. It was unfortunate he took the role of the aggressor. He could have walked away."

Jefferson said his stepfather beat him for eating without permission and for using a large towel when a smaller one would do. He said Allen called him weak and dared him to respond.

Jefferson said he felt forced to use the 29-inch samurai sword, a gift from a martial arts teacher, because he felt he might be killed. He said he drove the blade completely through Allen's chest, into his abdomen and slashed his arms, hands and legs.

"I stood there and looked and started crying," Jefferson told jurors. "I touched his arm and said I was sorry. He was pretty much dead at that point."

Jefferson is scheduled to be sentenced July 22.

___

Information from: The Commercial Appeal, http://www.thecommercialappeal.com

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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