John Burgess, 81, of Julian told a district judge Monday that a political argument with an 86-year-old man raised tempers at the Burger King restaurant March 3.
Burgess, who had been charged with felony strangulation, earlier entered a plea to assault and was sentenced to 18 months probation.
Attorney John Voelker asked for a sentence of three days already service in county jail, pointing out that Burgess had no criminal history and the altercation with Clyde Stoll at the restaurant was out of character.
Stoll told the News-Press Tuesday that there was no political argument. He said Burgess insulted his friends who were seated nearby and he called out for Burgess "to shut up."
Stoll and Burgess agree that Stoll called Burgess a name, but the men differ on what initiated contact between them.
Burgess said as he approached the seated Stoll, Stoll put out his leg and contacted Burgess' leg. Burgess said he stumbled and grabbed Stoll's neck region to keep his balance.
Stoll said after he called Burgess a "loud-mouth" Burgess suggested that they take their difference outside. Stoll said he refused, but after about 10 minutes, Burgess walked up to him, straddled his chair and put both hands round his neck.
Voelker said the state dropped the strangulation charge after Stoll told investigators that Burgess had choked him, but never impeded his breathing.
A secondary charge of assault was also amended from "causing bodily injury" to "threatening" in a menacing manner.
Voelker said another man in his 80s separated the men, but did not give a written statement to police.
The only witness statement came from Jim Easter, but, for some reason, Voelker said, it was written not by Easter but by Police Captain Lonnie Neeman.
Voelker said a political argument got out of control and was carried too far. He said inappropriate language was used and tempers went high.
As Burgess approached Stoll, Voelker said, Stoll's foot and leg hit Burgess's leg.
He said Burgess had polio as a child and the leg troubles him still today.
He said Burgess struggled to keep his balance and stumbled forward, reaching out and grabbing hold of Stoll to try and regain his balance.
"In counseling, he came to realize the political arguments you see on TV are not like real life. He has seen that it is best to turn and walk away," Voelker said.
He said Burgess has lived in the area for 60 years and has never been charged with anything simliar.
"It seems to me that a person of that age would be given some benefit of the doubt," Voelker said.
Voelker said Burgess had asked to make a comment.
Page 2 of 2 - Burgess told the court that Stoll insulted him and it was suggested that the men take their differences outside.
He said he stumbled forward and Stoll reacted by grabbing him and keeping him from getting away.
"I just wanted to slap him one hell of a lick. That's what I had in mind, but I couldn't do that. I wouldn't do that because he had glasses on. He fought hard, but I wasn't going to beat him up, I wouldn't do that," Burgess said.
Voelker said both men were sitting outside of restaurant when police arrived.
Judge Randall Rehmeier said at their age it would not have taken much for Burgess, Stoll or the 80-year-old man who broke up the fight to get hurt.
He instructed Burgess to guard his behavior. "You can't be arguing with people. I want you to walk the line here and keep out of trouble," he said.
He ordered Burgess to have no contact with Stoll.