The judges who heard the Fernando Báez Sosa murder trial explained in their ruling why they decided to sentence most of the amateur rugby players convicted of his killing to life imprisonment.
Five of the eight defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment for homicide, doubly aggravated on grounds of premeditation and the involvement of multiple people, while the remaining three were sentenced to 15 years in jail as “secondary participants”.
Under Argentine law, life imprisonment is equivalent to 50 years. In aggravated homicide cases, prisoners cannot be considered for early parole. The killers are currently aged between 21 and 23.
Defense lawyer Hugo Tomei had called for them to be acquitted or face the lesser charge of homicide in a fight, which carries a lesser sentence of up to six years in prison.
According to the judges’ ruling, “there was a convergence of wills on the part of the accused, who took advantage of the defenseless state in which the victim was left after the first two blows, at this point with the clear intention of ending Fernando Báez Sosa’s life, they continued to brutally attack him”.
Argentine law recognizes that victims are less able to defend themselves when attacked by several people. Báez Sosa was beaten to death at the age of 18 outside Le Brique nightclub in the seaside resort city of Villa Gesell in January 2020.
The defense had argued that the beating that killed Báez Sosa was not a premeditated attack. However, the president of the Tribunal, María Claudia Castro, stated that while premeditation can involve advance planning or crimes in which a victim is deliberately surprised or trapped, it can also apply to situations of “helplessness”, when the killer takes advantage of the victim’s defenseless situation.
“[…] he was in a completely defenseless state, since, as a result of those first blows, he was left lying on the floor in a state of semi-consciousness that excluded any possibility of resistance,” Castro said.
The judges rejected Tomei’s argument that the case should be treated as homicide in a fight because the charge only applies in cases involving at least three people, in which the aggressor and victim were hitting each other. “A simple altercation or verbal insults are not enough,” the sentence read.
Castro added that a fight typically takes place spontaneously and without any particular intent. The coordinated, intentional nature of the crime excluded that possibility.
“After waiting so long over these three years, I’ve heard the verdict and it rang loud when they said life imprisonment,” said Báez Sosa’s mother, Graciela Sosa, in a press conference after the verdict. “I felt such emotion when I heard it, which also gave me some peace in my heart. Now I know who really killed my son.”
Báez Sosa’s lawyer, Fernando Burlando, has said that he will appeal the verdict that Ayrton Viollaz, Blas Cinalli and Lucas Pertossi were secondary participants. The trio received a shorter sentence of 15 years.