Suspect strikes plea deal in beating

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A man pleaded guilty Friday to severely beating an illegal immigrant who was later deported on drug charges -- and whose deportation, in the eyes of the suspect's supporters, gummed the judicial process.

Former Norcross resident Amir Dixon, a 25-year-old father of two, pleaded guilty in Gwinnett Superior Court to aggravated battery and was sentenced to serve two years, said Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter.

The plea means Porter's office won't have to fly the victim, David Ramirez-Garcia, 23, in from Mexico and pay for his lodging during trial, though those are expenses the office commonly covers for far-flung witnesses in all manner of court proceedings.

Ramirez-Garcia was deported to his native Mexico after a marijuana conviction in South Carolina, Porter said.

Dixon's supporters raised concerns earlier this year that Ramirez-Garcia's deportation was delaying Dixon's day in court, and that importing the victim would come at exorbitant costs to the county.

Prosecutors said the case illustrates a common difficulty, in that dealing with key witnesses and victims who have left the country for whatever reason has become rudimentary business.

Dixon has been jailed since January 2011 on felony aggravated battery charges, accused of beating up Ramirez-Garcia in a dispute two years ago outside a Norcross apartment that Dixon shared with his mother and younger brother.

Ramirez-Garcia was beaten badly enough that medics told police the injuries could be life-threatening. One officer noted that Ramirez-Garcia appeared to be vomiting blood.

Dixon's attorney, Matthew Miller, contends the case is clearly self-defense, in that Ramirez-Garcia attacked his client first with a knife, cutting his hand.

Dixon chose to plead guilty because, given the time he's served in jail, he should be free in a matter of days, Miller said.

"They struck a plea bargain that essentially (Dixon) couldn't refuse," said Miller.

Once freed from jail, Dixon will be on probation and restricted from having contact with his victim. Miller laughed that the latter condition shouldn't be a problem.