ST. LOUIS – A man who stomped another man to death in what prosecutors called an anti-Semitic attack outside a St. Louis diner was sentenced to life in prison, the maximum penalty.
"This was a deliberate killing," Circuit Judge David Mason told Kevin A. Johnson (search), 36, of St. Louis, before sentencing him Tuesday.
Mason said jurors had given Johnson a break by convicting him of second-degree murder instead of first-degree, which would carry a mandatory life term without parole. He was given 20 years for armed criminal action, to be served concurrently with the life term, and must serve 23 more years behind bars before he is eligible for parole.
Johnson apologized Tuesday and said Michael Schnelle's (search) death "would haunt me the rest of my life."
At his trial, witnesses said Johnson, who has a tattoo of a swastika and a Confederate flag, stood on his chair with another man inside the diner on Sept. 1, 2002, yelled "white power" and gave the Nazi salute.
Three witnesses said he shouted racist remarks and called Schnelle, 46, a "Jew boy" before following him outside the diner, knocking him down and stomping on his head. Family members said Schnelle was not Jewish.
Johnson denied saying "white power" or giving the salute and said he hit Schnelle only after Schnelle took a swing at him. Two defense witnesses also denied hearing slurs or seeing the salute in the diner.
Mason told Johnson that he could have avoided the fight or stopped after one punch, but instead inflicted at least four more severe blows.