Thursday, April 8, 2004

Honor to stand; victim approves

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati Councilman Sam Malone said Wednesday that he won't apologize for spearheading a council resolution honoring a man who beat an Over-the-Rhine construction worker with a hammer in 2002.

Cincinnati City Council voted unanimously last week to honor Ron Siler Jr., a 24-year-old boxer who has qualified for the Olympic team, for his "distinguished record of achievement in boxing."

The 112-pound Siler qualified for the Olympic team after winning a gold medal at the Americas Qualifier in Mexico last month.

Siler was convicted of felonious assault after beating Eldon "Al" Sundberg, a 51-year-old contractor, in Over-the-Rhine. Sundberg was rehabbing a vacant building, and when a group of 20 young men stole a hammer, a co-worker ran after them. Sundberg chased behind, trying to get the worker to let the hammer go.

Sundberg turned a corner and was hit in the back of the head and knocked unconscious.

Siler pleaded guilty to felonious assault. Judge Norbert Nadel sentenced him to 80 hours of community service and five years' probation. Siler has had to get court permission to travel for Olympic tryouts.

"For me, he made a mistake. He paid his price," Malone said Wednesday, a week after he stood with boxing supporter Buddy LaRosa to honor Siler at City Council's March 31 meeting. "He was disciplined, he was focused, he listened to his coaches and he made the Olympic team."

Malone, a freshman Republican who credits his own boxing coach with getting him off the streets of Bond Hill, said he hopes Siler's boxing career will do the same for him.

Patrice and Brian Fabel, Sundberg's neighbor and parents of the co-worker who began the chase, sent a letter to council members admonishing them for honoring a "thug."

But Sundberg, who continues to work in Over-the-Rhine, said he holds no grudges.

"It's something that happened a long time ago. I have the same hope that Ron has changed his life," he said. "When he represents us at the Olympics, I'm rooting for him, for Cincinnati and the USA."


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