Eight-time convicted felon sentenced to prison after beating homeless man with metal pipe
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - An eight-time convicted felon was sentenced to 30 years in prison Wednesday for badly beating a homeless man with a 3-foot metal pipe in August 2019.
Jurors in Waco’s 19th State District Court deliberated about 30 minutes Wednesday before deciding punishment for James Randall Lehman, a 63-year-old construction worker.
Jurors convicted Lehman of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, charges that prosecutors Vanessa Fuentes and Maddie Beach enhanced to habitual criminal status because of Lehman’s extensive criminal record that dates back to 1986.
Jurors had the option of recommending to Judge Thomas West that he sentence Lehman to a minimum 25-year term or up to 99 years or life. Lehman must serve at least 15 years in prison before he can seek parole.
Lehman’s attorney, Darren Obenoskey, declined comment after the three-day trial.
Lehman was convicted of beating Gabriel Vega, a homeless man who rushed in to defend a woman from Lehman’s verbal attack outside a homeless camp near South 13th Street and Clay Avenue.
Vega suffered two serious cuts to his head and bruising over most of his body and was badly injured in the attack. Vega, who was homeless, died in October 2022, but his death was unrelated to the assault, officials said.
Lehman testified he acted in self-defense after Vega, whom he did not know, pulled an ax handle on him as he was trying to get a woman who previously was his girlfriend to go with him. Witnesses testified that Lehman rode to the area on a bicycle and got into a verbal altercation with his ex-girlfriend. Vega came over to intervene on the woman’s behalf, witnesses said, adding that Lehman walked over to his bicycle, took a metal pipe that he carried on the handlebars and started beating Vega, who tried to shield himself from the blows with his hands and arms.
Witnesses said it took from seven to 10 staples to close each of the two deep lacerations on Vega’s head. They also said he suffered long-term mental and physical effects from the savage assault.
Court records show Lehman has previous felony convictions for DWI, burglary of a building, delivery of marijuana, bail jumping, auto theft, carrying a concealed firearm, possession of methamphetamine and burglary of conveyance.
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