The lawyer for a 20-year-old athlete found guilty of manslaughter is arguing for a lenient sentence so his client doesn’t face deportation out of Canada.

Taitusi Vikilani, once a rising star of B.C. rugby, and another athlete attacked James Enright in the parking lot of Edmonds SkyTrain Station in Burnaby two years ago.

The victim, who was standing up for a woman Vikilani had punched in the face, died after being stabbed in the heart. While Vikilani didn't deal the fatal blow, he did punch Enright in the head and was found partially responsible for his death.

Prosecutors are pushing for Vikilani to spend four years in prison, but the rugby player's lawyer, Patrick Beirne, is arguing for a suspended sentence and three years' probation.

"That's a sentence that's available under the Criminal Code," said Beirne.

A light sentence would help the young athlete, who was once on the radar of Team Canada, remain in the country. Vikilani immigrated with his family when he was three years old but has never applied for citizenship. Because of his status, if the judge jails him for six months or more, Vikilani will lose his right to appeal and be sent back to Tonga.

"He is subject to removal now because of the conviction," Beirne said. "At the moment, until the judge determines what's an appropriate sentence, he would have a right to appeal."

Enright's mother, Barbara Stevenson, said she doesn't want to see the potential for Vikilani's deportation factor into the judge's decision.

"I think he should be charged and sentenced like any other person in this country," she said. "We have our rules, we have our sentencing and he should serve his sentence."

Deportation could separate Vikilani from his family, a feeling Stevenson understands all too well. She described living day-to-day without her son as "horrible."

"I think of James every day when I wake up and the pain is still there, as fresh as the first day. I go to bed crying for him," Stevenson told CTV News outside court.

Enright and a woman were sitting in a parked car outside Edmonds SkyTrain Station when they saw Vikilani, who was then an 18-year-old student at Burnaby Central Secondary School, and fellow athlete Jesse Sallam fighting with a group of men.

The court heard Vikilani saw Enright's friend recording the altercation on her cellphone and decided to approach the car and punch her in the face. Enright stepped out to protect her, at which point Sellam stabbed him and Vikilani punched him in the face.

The victim's mother described the act of intervening in the assault as "typical James."

The judge in Vikilani's trial is expected to announce his decision in November.

With a report from CTV Vancouver's Ben Miljure