A man who pleaded guilty attacking a mentally disabled Publix employee in the parking lot last year apologized to the victim and his family at a sentencing hearing Friday.
Meanwhile, the family of Jay Wall, the victim, will have to wait again to learn his attacker's fate.
Ryan Keys, 28, previously pleaded guilty to aggravated assault. Keys' brother, Cade Keys, received three years in prison for driving the getaway car.
The attack started with Wall, then 27, telling Ryan Keys he liked his Georgia Bulldogs T-shirt. It led to a brutal beating.
On Friday, for the first time, Keys got to say he's sorry to the man he hit.
"I want to extend my sincere apology to Jay Wall and his family," he said. "I apologize for the pain and the suffering I have caused on that day. I apologize for the mental anguish and disturbance that has been a problem for you since that day. I also apologize for the future health issues that may incur as a result of my actions."
Ryan Keys had a quiver in his voice as he sat in front of the man he attacked in a Northside Publix parking lot in July 2011.
"He hit me three times and I fell down," Wall said.
Wall broke his jaw and had two teeth knocked out. He needed surgery.
Police said the Keys brothers sped off after the attack. Officers caught them later and they confessed. Ryan Keys told prosecutors he had been using OxyContin, Valium and alcohol that day.
"For the past year, I have reflected on my actions of that afternoon and I struggle to find an explanation," Keys said.
His lawyer begged the judge for mercy. He painted the man as a good person from a nice family who made a terrible decision. But prosecutors tried to convince the court for a maximum sentence of 15 years.
After Friday's hearing, Wall's father talked about how he felt about Keys' apology.
"I'm not surprised of him apologizing to the family. I think his apology is, he's sorry he got caught and is going to have to serve time in prison now for this crime against my son," Jimmy Wall said. "I can forgive anybody, anybody for anything, but I'll never forget what happened. My son will never forget it. He's going to have to live with these scars physically and emotionally for the rest of his life."
Keys was initially facing up to 30 years in prison, but that maximum was reduced to 15 years because of his plea deal. It's up to the judge to make the final decision, which he said will come in about two weeks.