British soccer fan sentenced to 15 years in Bulgarian prison

A Bulgarian court has rejected the appeal of a British man sentenced to 15 years in prison for attempted murder, a court official said Thursday.

Michael Shields, from the English city of Liverpool, was appealing before the Varna court to have his sentence reduced.

"The three-judge panel refused to reduce the sentence but decreased the amount of the civil claim from €100,000 to €60,000," Varna District Court spokeswoman Elena Bangieva said.

Shields' lawyers now have 15 days to lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court of Cassation in Sofia, where a five-judge panel will have the final word on the sentence.

In July, the 19-year-old Shields was convicted of premeditated attempted murder. A lower court in Varna then found him guilty of hitting a Bulgarian bartender with a paving stone, leaving him with brain damage.

Another Briton, Graham Sankey, later confessed to the assault to a Liverpool solicitor. Bulgarian prosecutors, however, rejected a request by Shields' lawyers to investigate Sankey's confession, saying it had been insufficient for an investigation and contradicted other evidence in the case.

In their appeal, the lawyers had requested the conviction be overturned and, if not, that charges against Shields be downgraded from "premeditated attempted murder" to "severe injury."

Shields had been visiting Varna after watching Liverpool FC win the Champions League soccer cup final in neighboring Turkey, the AP reports.


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