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Spencer pleads in South Forsyth grad's beating death, sentenced to 20 years
Michael Gatto death results in voluntary manslaughter plea
spencer mug WEB
Grant James Spencer. - photo by For the Forsyth County News

Michael's Law was passed earlier this year as a result of his death to prevent underage persons from being in bars.

STATESBORO -- In a plea agreement, Grant James Spencer pleaded guilty Tuesday to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 20 years to serve in prison for the Aug. 2014 beating death of fellow Georgia Southern University student and South Forsyth High School graduate Michael Gatto.

After hearing emotionally charged testimony from Gatto’s family, including his mother, as well as from Spencer himself and his family members, Bulloch County Superior Court Judge William Woodrum handed down the sentence.

The plea agreement reduced the original charge of felony murder to voluntary manslaughter, and the original charge of aggravated battery was “nolle prossed,” or not prosecuted.

Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Daphne Totten said during court that had Spencer been convicted of the original charges, he could have faced life without parole.

Spencer was a 20-year-old bouncer at Rude Rudy’s, a bar near the Georgia Southern University campus that has since closed, but was there off duty the night Gatto was killed.

Spencer testified he was asked by bar management to remove Gatto from the facility, and said video shows the unprovoked attack where Spencer struck Gatto several times in the head. Then, Gatto, who was 18 and only a couple months into his first year at Georgia Southern, was dragged outside and “left for dead,” she said.

Both Gatto and Spencer were drinking alcohol.

Gatto died of skull fractures and blunt force trauma, she said.