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Defense wins at trial over fight ended by gunshot

A late-night shoving match that ended with a gunshot in a St. Louis diner parking lot resulted in a verdict for the defense.

Joshua Davis of Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice defended concealed-carry permit holder James Bommarito in connection with the incident, which began after a verbal dispute between his client and another patron, Anthony Bertoglio.

Bertoglio left the diner with his female companion to go to his car. Davis alleged that as Bommarito left a minute later to head to his own vehicle, Bertoglio approached and unexpectedly tackled Bommarito, who quickly began to lose the ensuing fight.

“[Bertoglio] got him into a chokehold, a headlock, and forced him to his knees and kind of onto his belly,” Davis said.

He said his client feared for his life and fired his gun in the air.

Plaintiff’s attorney Joe Jacobson of Jacobson Press presented a very different story of the encounter. He argued that Bommarito wasn’t ambushed, wasn’t headed to his car and that both parties approached one another in the parking area.

“The two men reached each other at the midpoint outside the rear door of the restaurant, grabbed each other by the shoulders and started wrestling,” he said.

Jacobson said his client was holding but not choking the defendant and even tried to relax his grip, hoping the fight was over.

Then the gun came out, and Bertoglio ended up lying on the ground.

“Bertoglio testified that he continued to beg for his life, heard the gunshot and felt intense pain on his chin,” said Jacobson, who contended the chin injury was a graze wound from the firearm. Davis said the chin injury was simply from the scuffle and not related to the gunshot.

Davis said the defense verdict showed they believed Bommarito was justified in his actions.

Jacobson disagreed, saying jurors told him they didn’t believe the defendant.

“But they felt that our guy should have gotten in his car and locked the door rather than walk up to the defendant in the parking lot,” he said.

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Personal injury

Venue: St. Louis Circuit Court

Case Number/Date: 1722-CC00476/Nov. 7, 2019

Judge: Paula Bryant

Last Pretrial Demand: $1.5 million

Last Pretrial Offer: $5,000

Caption: Anthony Bertoglio v. James Bommarito

Plaintiff’s Attorney: Joe Jacobson and Matthew Vianello, Jacobson Press, St. Louis

Defendant’s Attorney: Joshua Davis and Rebecca Guntli, Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice, St. Louis