CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — The suspect accused of murdering a man during a fight over football pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter Tuesday.
Ronnie Cisko, 36, pleaded not guilty at the beginning of his jury trial Monday morning, but changed his plea during the second day of trial.
Cisko first addressed the judge, and later turned to face the victim’s family in the gallery as they sat crying.
Chesapeake Police arrested Cisko in connection to the death of Charles “Chuck” Setchel, a 46-year-old man who died in the hospital shortly after being hit in the neck in December 2014.
If the jury had found Cisko guilty of first degree murder, he could have spent the rest of his life in prison. Pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter means he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
“Would I like to have seen 20, 25 years? Yes, because that’s how much he took away from my kids,” said Summer Tangen, who identified herself as Setchel’s ex-wife, and the mother two of his children, both teenagers. “My children deserved to have their father around at least until he saw his grandchildren.”
As the trial began Monday afternoon defense and prosecuting attorneys argued not about what Cisko did but instead about what his intentions were in the time leading up to Setchel’s death. Both teams referenced security video taken from inside the bar which shows the altercation.
It appears to show Ronnie Cisko’s outstretched arm as it hits Chuck Setchel, who fell to the ground and never woke up, according to witnesses.
A medical examiner determined Setchel died of a ruptured artery caused by blunt force trauma.
Describing the moments prior to the hit, prosecuting attorney DJ Hansen described Cisko squaring off against Setchel “the way a linebacker lines up in the line of scrimmage […] the defendant charged him.”
“There was no reason for the defendant to hit this man. No reason at all,” Hansen said to the jury. “Because of what he did, Chuck is no longer with us.”
In his opening statement, defense attorney Robin Winn told the jury more about what witnesses allegedly saw and heard leading up to the fight.
“Chuck Setchel had been drinking heavily,” said Winn, who went on to describe Setchel as the instigator of the fight.
“What is this? This is a bar fight gone bad,” Winn said. “A highly intoxicated Chuck Setchel, who keeps on provoking and provoking […] and trying to antagonize these people.”
Winn says Setchel threatened his client and when Cisko got up to leave, the two “had a mutually combative struggle.”
“Rather than wait to be attacked, Ronnie horse-collars him, takes him down,” Winn told the jury. “Ronnie felt he had to defend himself and others. […] At the end of the trial, you’ll find there’s no way my client could have intended to kill him.”
Sentencing is scheduled for January 11. Cisko faces a maximum sentence of ten years.