FLORENCE — An Arizona inmate has received a longer prison sentence due to a fatal confrontation over a basketball game that took place at the Pinal County jail in 2015.
Michael Favela, 42, pleaded guilty to negligent homicide last month in relation to the death of 37-year-old Anthony Lopez, a fellow inmate.
According to previous media reports, Lopez was found by Pinal County detention officers lying on the ground in the jail’s E-unit. Video surveillance reportedly showed Lopez being pushed to the floor and hit repeatedly by Favela.
Lopez was transported to a nearby hospital but never regained consciousness. More than six months after Lopez’s death, Favela was indicted on charges of negligent homicide and assault.
Both men had been inmates of the state Department of Corrections facility in Kingman before being transferred to the Pinal County jail. Hundreds of DOC inmates were sent to Florence after a riot erupted at the Kingman facility in July 2015.
The county contracted to hold the inmates for about eight months, with reimbursements from DOC being used to cover operational costs.
Then-Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu called Lopez’s death “tragic” and told the county Board of Supervisors the altercation occurred shortly after a basketball game.
Babeu stipulated to the supervisors that a medical condition could have been a factor in Lopez’s death.
On Monday, lawyers involved in Favela’s criminal case disclosed in court that a brain aneurysm ultimately killed Lopez. Deputy County Attorney Amy Diederich said the victim’s medical condition added some legal complexities to the case, resulting in the charge of negligent homicide — a lesser offense than manslaughter or murder.
The plea agreement signed by both parties made Favela subject to serving 3.75 years in prison after completing his other prison sentences. The defendant has been convicted of multiple felonies, according to court records, for the crimes of kidnapping, aggravated robbery and driving while intoxicated.
Favela told Pinal County Judge Kevin White he was sorry for the incident and his attorney emphasized how the whole thing started as a disagreement over a basketball game.
Before the judge issued Favela’s sentence, a statement from the victim’s family was read in court that detailed the trauma Lopez’s death has caused.
Online DOC records indicate Lopez was serving time for charges of forgery and aggravated assault before his death.
White followed the terms of the plea agreement and sentenced Favela to an additional 3.75 years at DOC.