STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – In a disturbing incident captured on videotape, an MMA fighter beat a Tottenville business owner to a pulp three years ago.
Unleashing a torrent of blows, Peter Rodriguez, 42, who’s also known as Peter Storm, broke Eric Gittlitz’s jaw on Oct. 17, 2016.
He fractured 16 bones in Gittlitz’s face and knocked the victim out.
Gittlitz didn’t attend Rodriguez’s sentencing for felony assault Tuesday in state Supreme Court, St. George.
But his wife, Dina Gittlitz did.
And she let Rodriguez have it moments before Justice Alexander Jeong sentenced the defendant to 54 months in prison.
“Peter, I’m here to make sure you are reminded of Monday, Oct. 17th in 2016,” the woman said, reading a prepared statement as the bald, stocky defendant stood a few feet away at the defense table. “You decided to … use your MMA fighting abilities to attack my husband with your friend, Larry Demonte.”
“The video evidence shows you sucker-punching Eric, tripped him by sweeping his leg to put him to the ground and continued to beat his face with 13 to 14 blows until he passed out…,” Ms. Gittlitz said.
She said her husband’s injuries were so severe he was hospitalized for a week and had his jaw wired for three months.
He couldn’t run his company, and the couple had to sell their home of 15 years, she said.
Even now, her husband, who has since returned to work, suffers from jaw pain and migraines, said Ms. Gittlitz.
“You’re not sorry for what you did to Eric,” she said.
However, Rodriguez told the woman and the court he is remorseful.
“Dina, I’m sorry,” Rodriguez said when Jeong asked if he wished to make a statement before imposing sentence. “… There was no justification for what I did. Tell Eric I’m sorry. … In life, good people do bad things. It’s very unfortunate that I chose to do what I did.”
“I’m a law-abiding citizen and did something I shouldn’t have,” said Rodriguez.
According to various media reports, Storm was a Bronx-based mixed martial arts fighter and promoter affiliated with the Underground Combat League.
Prosecutors allege Rodriguez assaulted Eric Gittlitz, 45, during a confrontation outside the victim’s business, American Air Mechanical, on Amboy Road.
Rodriguez punched Gittlitz at least three times before tackling him and striking him at least 11 more times while he was defenseless on the ground, said a criminal complaint.
The incident was captured on surveillance video.
The footage shows Gittlitz, dressed in a black shirt and shorts, arguing with Demonte, a former business partner, in a yellow shirt from across the street.
Demonte then walks over to talk to Gittlitz before two other men, including Rodriguez, dressed in black pants, a black shirt and hat, are seen crossing the street.
Words are exchanged, and Rodriguez punches Gittlitz before dragging him around the company van and into a corner. He then repeatedly pummels Gittlitz as he lies unconscious from the constant blows.
Later in the video, Gittlitz, who said his head hit the concrete about 20 times, is seen struggling to get to his feet.
Rodriguez was arrested in January 2017 and indicted that August on charges of second- and third-degree assault. The latter charge is a misdemeanor.
Demonte was also arrested then and charged with third-degree assault, falsely reporting an incident and harassment, a criminal complaint said.
Prosecutors alleged Demonte lied when he told investigators Gittlitz started the fight.
Demonte later pleaded guilty to third-degree falsely reporting an incident, a misdemeanor, and was sentenced in Criminal Court on Jan. 12, 2018, to three years’ probation, said prosecutors.
A five-year order of protection was issued in Gittlitz’s favor, prosecutors said.
Last October, with jury selection set to start in his trial, Rodriguez pleaded guilty to second-degree assault to resolve his case. It was the top count against him.
In her statement, Dina Gittlitz said her spouse had good reasons for not attending Tuesday’s proceeding.
“I’m quoting what my husband Eric asked me to tell you: ‘I’m not here today because I’m free and out running my businesses, and that you aren’t worth my time,’” she read. “‘I’d rather be at a sentencing for your friend, Larry Demonte.’”
Defense lawyer Barry Weinstein said he submitted about a dozen letters of support for Rodriguez to the court.
“They believe he’ll go on a new way” after serving his sentence, Weinstein said of the letter-writers. “I’m not here to justify what he did, but to express his remorse.”
Assistant District Attorney Lisa Davis told the court Rodriguez had cooperated with the Manhattan district attorney’s office on another matter.
Jeong said he had taken that into consideration, along with the seriousness of the crime and Rodriguez’s “checkered” criminal past, which includes six convictions.
He also said he believed Rodriguez was genuinely remorseful and would “become a law-abiding citizen” after serving his time.
Consequently, the judge slightly reduced the previously promised prison sentence from five years to four-and-a-half years.
Rodriguez was also sentenced to three years’ post-release supervision.