A Douglas County District Court judge on Tuesday ordered former University of Kansas basketball player Silvio De Sousa to stand trial in an aggravated battery case that stems from a 2020 incident outside a bar in downtown Lawrence in which he is accused of hitting a man who later lost vision in his eye.
After Tuesday's preliminary hearing, in which Judge Sally Pokorny determined there was probable cause to proceed to trial, De Sousa pleaded not guilty to the charge. His trial is scheduled for Aug. 2 and is expected to last around three days.
As the Journal-World previously reported, the probable-cause affidavit supporting the charge alleged that De Sousa struck a man who told him to “shut the (expletive) up” around 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2020, outside Brothers Bar and Grill, 1105 Massachusetts St. Despite multiple surgeries, the man lost vision in one eye after the altercation, according to the affidavit.
De Sousa was originally seeking a diversion in the felony case, but those negotiations fell through, his attorney, Hatem Chahine, said.
On Tuesday, Chahine and prosecutors Eve Kemple and David Melton called numerous witnesses to the stand, including the man who was injured, medical professionals, other people who were at Brothers and law enforcement officials.
The injured man was the first witness called to the stand. The Johnson County resident said he had come to Brothers alone to celebrate the new year in a new place. He exited the bar just after midnight to get some fresh air, he said, and he heard an argument between De Sousa and a female who was identified as De Sousa's girlfriend. The two were also outside the bar, along with about 20 others.
The man said that he did not recognize De Sousa as a KU basketball player, and that the argument he was overhearing upset him because “it was supposed to be a happy time.” He then told De Sousa and the female to “shut the (expletive) up.”
An altercation followed, and the man said he was struck twice by De Sousa.
“It felt like my eye was getting hit with bricks,” he said. He said that immediately afterward, he was unable to see out of his left eye and that there was blood and “goo” coming out of it.
In their accounts, the various witnesses differed on several specifics of the incident. The man, for instance, said that De Sousa hit him with his fist, but three eyewitnesses — a bouncer, De Sousa’s girlfriend and a friend of De Sousa — all said that De Sousa slapped the man with an open hand. According to the probable-cause affidavit, De Sousa told police detectives in an interview that he had “swatted” at the man but missed him the first time, then did it again and struck him in his cheek, as the Journal-World previously reported.
In addition, the man said he was hit in his left eye, which is where his injuries were, but other witnesses' accounts were different. De Sousa's friend said De Sousa slapped the man’s right eye; the bouncer said De Sousa slapped the back of the man’s head; and De Sousa's girlfriend said De Sousa hit the man on the left cheek.
The man said that following the altercation, he walked to South Park and lay down on a bench for 30 to 45 minutes. Then he went to the back seat of his car to try to sleep off his pain. Eventually, he began vomiting, and then he drove to LMH Health.
Two medical professionals who testified both saw the injured man on the day of the incident and said blunt force trauma could have caused the eye injury the man suffered.
The first medical professional to testify was an emergency room physician who was working when the man came to LMH Health in the early hours of Jan. 1, 2020. This physician said the man had injuries to his left eye, including an orbital fracture, a detached retina and hemorrhaging. The physician also said the man did not have detectable levels of alcohol in his system when his blood was drawn just prior to 4 a.m.
Kemple asked the physician whether a fist could fracture the area around one’s eye, and the physician said it could.
The man was then transferred to AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, where he was seen by an ophthalmologist, a doctor who specializes in eye care. This doctor said that the victim’s retina was detached, his iris was partially missing, his lens was not present and his eye wall was ruptured.
The eye specialist said symptoms for such an injury can include immediate loss of vision, pain, nausea and vomiting. The ophthalmologist said he has completed three surgeries on the man since the initial incident, but that he does not believe anything else can be done.
“He is not going to be able to see,” the ophthalmologist said. “Our goal right now is trying to prevent him from losing the eye itself.”