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A tearful Walter R. Smith was ordered today to serve a one- to three-year prison term for contributing to the death of his Laux Street roommate by slugging him with a baseball bat and then failing to get him medical treatment.

Smith, 48, tearfully told State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang that David Cox, 40, the victim, "was a good friend of mine, and I'm really sorry that it ever happened."

Smith hit Cox, 40, with a baseball bat March 31 as the two reportedly intoxicated roommates argued over money.

Cox died April 2.

Prosecutors had allowed Smith, who had been facing a possible indictment, to plead guilty June 9 to second-degree reckless manslaughter.

Anthony J. Lana, Smith's attorney, told the judge that Cox "was the initial aggressor" and the first to use the baseball bat during the fight.

Lana said Cox refused Smith's offer to take him to a hospital for treatment the next day and his death probably was brought on in part by cirrhosis of the liver he suffered because of alcoholism.

Smith had "no malicious intent" during the drunken spat, the attorney added.

The judge agreed with the defense attorney that the "unusual case" involved "mitigating circumstances," and she called it "a terrible tragedy that never should have happened."

But she told Smith he had to take responsibility for his own misconduct and his refusal to force the obviously injured Cox to seek medical treatment.

Prosecutor Patricia Idella Carrington said Smith, who struck Cox several times on the chest, found him dead two days after their fight and only then called police for help. An autopsy showed Cox died of severe internal injuries, the prosecutor said.

Smith has been behind bars since his arrest in April.

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