- Associated Press - Thursday, May 29, 2014

BOSTON (AP) - A Boston man who bit off and apparently swallowed part of another man’s lip during what prosecutors described as a racially motivated fight was sentenced to more than 22 years in prison as a habitual offender.

Robert O’Connor, 47, was sentenced Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court. He was convicted in March of charges including assault and battery and civil rights violations for his role in the August 2012 fight outside a South Boston bar, but jurors in that trial were not allowed to hear of his criminal history.

A separate jury last week determined that O’Connor was a habitual offender based on his 11-page rap sheet that included convictions for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, breaking and entering, larceny, firearms charges, and other offenses.

That finding exposed O’Connor to the mandatory maximum sentence allowed under the law on his latest convictions.

“Since 1985, this defendant has been unable to go more than four years without being arrested for one crime or another unless he was in prison,” Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley said. “He is precisely the sort of person for whom the habitual offender statute was created.”

O’Connor, who is white, entered the bar spoiling for a fight and called a black customer playing a pool a racial slur, prosecutors said. He also held a knife to a bar employee who asked him to leave.

Outside, O’Connor again called the victim a racial slur and the two agreed to cross the street to fight. During the fight, O’Connor grabbed the victim’s head, leaned in, then bit and ripped off a large portion of the victim’s lower lip, prosecutors said.

The lip was never recovered and authorities say O’Connor likely swallowed it. The victim was left permanently disfigured.

O’Connor’s lawyer did not immediately return a call Thursday.

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