AUGUSTA — A man charged with using his metal crutches to beat a Gardiner panhandler pleaded guilty to assault this week.

Cletus T. Jernigan Jr., 55, of Gardiner, was ordered to serve 23 days in jail with the remainder of a 180-day jail term suspended. He was placed on administrative release for a year and ordered to pay $279.86 restitution for the victim’s medical bills. Jernigan, who was sentenced at the Capital Judicial Center, already has served the 23 days.

He was charged with assault in the April 5 attack that sent Daniel T. DeGreenia, then 28, to the hospital for treatment of an injury to his hand. DeGreenia, who is a regular on the streets of Gardiner, was holding a sign saying he was hungry and asking passers-by for money.

Jernigan, who uses crutches to walk, told police he thought DeGreenia was scamming the public.

DeGreenia has suffered from mental and physical ailments since 2000, when he was hit by a van while riding his bicycle in Augusta.

At the time of the April attack, Gardiner Police Chief James Toman said DeGreenia had done nothing to provoke it. Toman said Jernigan, who was intoxicated, is familiar to police but did not have a history of assaultive behavior.

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