Prosecutors dropped a felony battery charge Tuesday against former UFC fighter Chael Sonnen, who was accused of attacking multiple people in a Las Vegas hotel hallway in December.
Sonnen, 44, was charged earlier this month with a felony count of battery by strangulation and 10 misdemeanor counts of battery, court records show. On Tuesday, Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Joe Bonaventure allowed prosecutors to file an amended criminal complaint, reducing his charges to six misdemeanor counts.
Las Vegas Justice Court records show that Sonnen faced a misdemeanor battery charge in January, although the online docket also indicates that prosecutors issued five citations “for the same event.” On Tuesday, Bonaventure said that case was dismissed without prejudice, meaning the charges could be re-filed, after a different judge found “procedural deficiencies.”
Sonnen’s defense attorney, Dayvid Figler, said he asked the district attorney’s office to take another look at the case after the new charges were filed this month.
“I believe that’s exactly what happened, and they realized that the more appropriate way to move forward would be with this amended complaint,” Figler said.
On Friday, Christopher and Julie Stellpflug of San Luis Obispo, California, filed a lawsuit against the former professional fighter, who they claim repeatedly punched them without provocation on Dec. 18 in a hallway of the Four Seasons, at 3960 Las Vegas Boulevard South.
Attorney Kory Kaplan, who is representing the Stellpflugs, said Tuesday that his clients objected to Sonnen’s charges being reduced, and that it contradicted what prosecutors previously told them.
“After the charges were filed, they were contacted by a deputy district attorney who confirmed that felony charges were appropriate,” Kaplan said during Tuesday’s hearing.
Kaplan said the felony charge was related to injuries Christopher Stellpflug said he received in the attack, which included Sonnen placing him in a chokehold.
Julie and Christopher Stellpflug said they are still seeing doctors in California while recovering from concussions. Both were bruised, and Julie Stellpflug said she had a split lip after the attack.
A police incident report indicated that five people, including the Stellpflugs, suffered “apparent minor injury.”
Figler said Tuesday that to reduce a battery charge to a misdemeanor, prosecutors would have had to find that either Sonnen did not intend to commit a felony or the injuries were not serious enough to warrant a felony.
According to the Stellpflugs’ lawsuit, the couple were walking down the hallway when they saw a man who appeared to be intoxicated, “uttering unintelligible noises.” The man, whom police later identified as Sonnen, was barefoot and wearing a torn, bloody shirt around his neck.
Sonnen knocked a drink out of Christopher Stellpflug’s hand, “without provocation or any communication whatsoever,” the lawsuit states.” Sonnen then began punching Christopher Stellpflug in the head multiple times.
According to an arrest warrant released Monday, Sonnen began choking Christopher Stellpflug while Julie Stellpflug “continued to yell and scream for help.” He then threw her against a light fixture and punched her in the face, she told police.
As this was happening, another man came out of his room and tried to stop Sonnen, who began elbowing the man, according to the lawsuit.
Another man told police he called security after Sonnen punched him in the face when he opened a door to the hallway, which happened just before before the Stellpflugs arrived.
Sonnen also is accused of striking one security guard in the nose with his knee and kicking another in the chest before he was detained by more employees.
The suspect told police that he and his wife had taken Ambien and “did not have a memory of anything” related to the alleged attack, according to his arrest warrant. Sonnen’s wife, Brittney, told police she was asleep “for the entirety of the brawl,” according to a police report.
An officer who authored the incident report indicated that Brittney Sonnen was injured, but the officer did not elaborate on her injuries.
Sonnen was a two-time silver medalist in wrestling at the Pac-10 championships for Oregon and also took second place in the world university championships in 2000.
He was 0-3 in UFC title fights, losing twice to middleweight champion Anderson Silva and then once to light heavyweight champion Jon Jones in 2013.
Sonnen has spent his retirement as a commentator and podcaster. The jiu-jitsu black belt is also the founder of Submission Underground, a popular grappling promotion.
Contact Katelyn Newberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.