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A 70-year-old man said he would rather go to jail than be barred from the Navy Marine Club after an argument with an 80-year-old buddy over a football schedule turned fatal.

George C. Jones got what he wanted Monday -- and more than he expected.

Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza sentenced Jones to five years' probation on a charge of criminally negligent homicide in the November death of William J. Haley, of Waterman Street, Lockport.

The judge ordered Jones to abstain from drinking alcohol for five years and to perform 2,000 hours of community service, but she didn't prohibit him from going to the club.

Jones could have been sentenced to four years in prison, said Assistant District Attorney Timothy R. Lundquist.

Jones and Haley had argued inside the Navy Marine Club, on Park Avenue in Lockport, over the University of Notre Dame's football schedule, police said.

Jones followed Haley outside the club, where the argument became more heated, police said. Jones shoved Haley to the sidewalk, and the older man hit his head on the pavement.

Haley was unconscious when Mercy Flight flew him to Erie County Medical Center, Buffalo. He died of head injuries two days later.

Sperrazza had barred Jones from the Navy Marine Club until after a trial, but Jones accepted a plea bargain in June to avoid being banned from his favorite club.

"My client has no family to speak of and he would rather go to jail than not be with his friends," said defense attorney Edward P. Jesella.

Haley's son and other family members asked the judge for a stiffer sentence.

"If my dad can no longer go to the club he loved, then Mr. Jones shouldn't be able to either," said Haley's son, Thomas.


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