Nigerian man gets 40-year sentence in attempted murder of Huntsville cop

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A Nigerian man with no prior felonies was sentenced today to 40 years in prison for the attempted murder of a Huntsville Police Department officer.

Olusola Kuponiyi, 41, was convicted last month of attempting to kill officer Jonathan Sallis during a fight on Aug. 22, 2013, behind Quizno's on University Drive. Both men testified the other was the aggressor.  Sallis approached Kuponiyi, who was sitting in his car behind the restaurant. A struggle followed, according to testimony and  Kuponiyi admitted to pepper spraying Sallis.

At some point in the struggle Sallis pulled his knife and he suffered a stab wound. Kuponiyi was able to get on top of Sallis before police back-up arrived.  Kuponiyi also suffered stab wounds in the incident. The stab wound to Sallis' arm was the basis for the attempted murder charge.

Today Kuponiyi's attorney Larry Marsili urged retired Madison County Circuit Judge Jim Smith to grant Kuponiyi, who had no prior felony convictions, a lenient sentence. Marsili said Kuponiyi holds a college degree and was preparing for graduate school at the time of the incident. Marsili said his client, who did not speak at the hearing, is eligible for community corrections -- essentially intensive probation -- and is a good subject of rehabilitation.

Madison County Assistant District Attorney Melissa Heron strongly disagreed with Marsili, arguing Kuponiyi was responsible for his actions and should be given the maximum sentence, life in prison.

Officer Sallis chose not to address the court.

Judge Smith then sentenced Kuponiyi to 40 years in prison.

Marsili has argued the evidence in the case did not rise to attempted murder and his client is appealing the verdict.

Following the hearing, Heron said Sallis was very pleased with the verdict and today's sentence.

"This was a tough case," she said. "A wise man once told me history starts with one incident. We're very fortunate not to have a murder case given how many times he tried to pull out the officer's gun."