A San Luis Obispo Superior Court judge has allowed bail for a 22-year-old man suspected in a late-night stabbing in downtown San Luis Obispo in January 2012.
At his Dec. 13 preliminary hearing, Austin Sarna sat quietly in shackles as Judge John Trice set bail at $500,000 and scheduled a trial-setting conference for Jan. 22.
Sarna faces felony counts of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon after coming to the aid of a motorist who was losing a lopsided fight, and stabbing 27-year-old Trevor Tice nine times.
According to investigators’ reports, shortly before midnight on Jan. 20, a motorist—who isn’t being publicly identified by New Times—was turning right on Broad and Monterey streets when one of a group of up to seven “college-aged” males kicked his car, prompting him to confront the group.
According to multiple police reports, witnesses say the man was then assaulted by a few in the group, and was losing the fight when Sarna, who witnessed the altercation from Mission Plaza, approached the group to tell them to “leave him alone.”
The group allegedly refused, and Sarna brandished a knife, he would later say, because he was scared. Sarna was immediately pounced on by at least two of the males—one later identified as Tice—who pinned him down on his back while kicking and punching his head and face.
Sarna—still on the ground—then stabbed Tice eight times in the back, wounds later determined to be “superficial,” but also slashed Tice’s left bicep, severing an artery, which later required surgery. As the group dispersed, Tice was left alone, and later collapsed in the street. The unidentified motorist also left the scene.
Another man received a wound to his head, which didn’t require medical attention.
Members of the group accompanying Tice later told investigators they were “pretty drunk,” and Tice later said he couldn’t recall the incident.
Sarna was arrested in September by SLOPD officers in his native Vallejo, after DNA found on the knife implicated him in the case.
Foss told New Times he still believes Sarna has a valid self-defense argument, though he has yet to enter a plea. Foss said he was appointed to the case after the county public defender’s office claimed they had conflicts of interest with the alleged victims in the case.
Foss added there had been preliminary talks of a possible plea bargain—possibly removing the attempted murder charge in exchange for a guilty plea to assault with a deadly weapon—but that offer hasn’t formally been made as of press time.
He said his client faces a possible maximum sentence of around 15 years in prison should he be convicted of all charges, due to a prior assault conviction—stemming from a fist-fight—for which he remains on probation. Under the law, he would be required to serve 85 percent of the sentence, Foss explained.
The case has attracted attention from the community, some of whom claim Sarna isn’t receiving fair treatment, as he’s the only individual from the questionable incident to face any charges.
Sarna remained in custody as of press time.