Man pleads guilty to beating Australian tourist

A man accused of beating an Australian tourist with a skateboard in Ocean Beach last year and throwing him into a smoldering fire pit pleaded guilty Friday to attempted murder.

Damian Maple, 22, also pleaded guilty to assault in a separate attack on a man in Dog Beach, and admitted causing great bodily injury to the victim. As part of a plea bargain, Maple agreed to a 14-year prison term.

San Diego Superior Court Judge David Danielsen accepted the pleas and scheduled a sentencing hearing for April 15.

Maple is one of two men charged in the Feb. 27 attack on Robert Schneider, a then-26-year-old surfer from Adelaide, Australia.

The other man, Francisco Montoya, 47, is scheduled to go to trial later this month on charges including aggravated mayhem and torture. If convicted, he could be sent to prison for life.

Authorities have described Maple and Montoya as transients.

According to testimony at a previous hearing, the men were part of a group on the beach, some of whom had been drinking. Sometime after 5 a.m., Schneider threw sand in Montoya’s face and Montoya retaliated, throwing sand and hitting Schneider in the head with a skateboard.

Witnesses told police that Maple continued the attack, striking Schneider and dragging him into a nearby fire pit.

A witness told police Maple used the skateboard to scoop hot coals from the pit and dump them onto Schneider’s abdomen. He suffered multiple injuries, including burns on 12 percent of his body, a skull fracture and a crushed eye socket.

According to the testimony, Maple got into an altercation with another man, Justin Heyes, in a parking lot near Dog Beach, fracturing his jaw.