Lehigh Valley

Tennessee man rejects plea deal in college student beatings

Police arrested a second suspect last month

EASTON, Pa. - A Tennessee man suspected in the brutal beatings of three Lehigh University students has changed his mind on a plea deal from prosecutors.

Christopher Navarrette told Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano on Friday that he’s decided against pleading guilty in connection with the 2016 attack and wants to take his chances with a jury.

Assistant District Attorney John Obrecht said the prosecution was offering a 1- to 2-year state prison sentence in exchange for a guilty plea on two felony counts of aggravated assault. Authorities charged Navarrette with two counts of aggravated assault and three counts each of simple assault and harassment.

If found guilty at trial, Navarrette could face a minimum sentence of 3 years in prison for aggravated assault, more if he has a prior record.

“The deal is off the table,” Obrecht told the judge. “It will not be coming back on the table under any circumstances.”

Bethlehem police arrested Navarrette last August and arrested his alleged accomplice about two weeks ago. Jesse Lee Watson, of Ooltewah, Tennessee, reportedly left the Lehigh Valley for Tennessee the night before police arrested Navarrette.

The district attorney’s office plans to file a motion to try both men simultaneously. The judge set an Oct. 2 trial date.

Outside the courtroom, a family member said Navarrette is fighting the charges, claiming Watson was the one who attacked two of the three students.

Navarrette remains free after posting $100,000 bail. Watson, meanwhile, sits in Northampton County Prison awaiting a May 25 preliminary hearing after failing to post $75,000 bail.

Police were dispatched to the 500 block of East Fifth Street about 1:30 a.m. Aug. 28, 2016, to investigate an assault report. When officers arrived, they found three victims.

One man was lying unconscious in the street with a cut to his right eye, a cut on his face, a broken nose and a skull fracture. The second victim had a cut to his face and was bleeding, while the third had blood seeping from his left ear and was bleeding. It was later determined he suffered from a concussion, a skull fracture and a damaged left ear drum.

A witness reported that a white car approached the victims' vehicle and that two men stepped out of the car. One of the men was overheard saying, "You talk smack, you get hit," according to court records.

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