A Yellowstone County District Court jury has convicted a 22-year-old Billings man who denied at trial that he was responsible for beating and robbing a disabled man.
After five hours of deliberations to end a two-day trial, the jury late Tuesday found Sonny Tee Reese guilty of felony robbery. The verdict was announced shortly after 7 p.m. in the courtroom of Judge Ingrid Gustafson.
Reese remains in the county jail on a $25,000 bond. A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.
Reese was charged in the Oct. 15 robbery at a residence on South 33rd Street. Prosecutors said Reese forced his way into the home of Scott Luptak shortly after 1 p.m. and stole about $40 cash, a cell phone and a small amount of medical marijuana after beating Luptak with a meat hammer or similar object.
Luptak testified at the trial that he knew Reese, who stayed at his home for a period of time but was not living there at the time of the attack. Luptak, who is disabled from a stroke and has other health issues, said Reese beat him for about 10 minutes.
“I looked up at him and said, ‘Son, I bet if you hit me one more time you’ll get the electric chair,’” Luptak told jurors at trial. “That kind of took the wind out of him, and that’s when he stopped.”
Luptak suffered extensive head injuries in the attack. He was treated at Billings Clinic, and photographs of his injuries were shown to the jury at trial.
Luptak’s ex-wife, Paula Luptak, who also lived at the residence, testified that she came home from work during a lunch break to find Luptak in a pool of blood in the front room. Luptak immediately identified Reese as the assailant, she said.
Reese testified at the trial and denied he beat and robbed Luptak.
“I really feel bad for him, but I’m not the person who did it,” he said.
Reese’s attorney, Jack Sands, argued that prosecutors had failed prove that Reese was responsible for the attack. There was no evidence beyond Luptak’s identification of Reese to connect him to the crime, he said.
Deputy County Attorney Robert Spoja told jurors that Reese’s actions immediately after the crime to shower and wash his clothes supported Luptak’s identification of the assailant. Spoja described the crime as an “act of senseless violence.”