After changing attorneys, a 22-year-old Vallejo man has decided not to take the criminal allegations against him to trial.
On March 22, Austin Sarna accepted a plea agreement from Deputy District Attorney Lee Cunningham, copping to an assault with deadly force charge. The conviction—though a felony—won’t count as a “strike” on Sarna’s record, and he was credited for time served as he awaited trial. He’ll be on probation in SLO County for three years, according to his attorney, Dave Vogel.
Sarna’s case gained attention following his arrest in Vallejo by SLOPD detectives on suspicion of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon after his DNA was found on a knife used against Atascadero resident Trevor Tice, 27, during a late-night multi-participant fight.
But details of the case against Sarna were murky. According to court records and witnesses who talked with New Times, Sarna was described as a “Good Samaritan,” coming to the defense of a motorist who was allegedly being attacked by a group of up to seven “college-aged” men.
According to police reports, at about midnight on Jan. 20, 2012, the unidentified motorist was driving north on Broad Street near Monterey and passed a group of men and a woman walking in and around the street. One of the group reportedly kicked the motorist’s car as he was stopped to turn; the driver pulled over and confronted the group, and a one-sided fight ensued.
Sarna, who was in Mission Plaza with his dog, witnessed the altercation, pulled a knife, and demanded the group leave the driver alone. Seconds later, he was on the ground, pinned down by at least one of the group—later identified by witnesses as Tice—and being punched and kicked in his face and head, according to multiple police reports. Sarna “superficially” stabbed Tice nine times in the back, but also slashed his left bicep, severing an artery and causing heavy bleeding.
The group fled, as did the motorist and Sarna, leaving Tice to collapse in the street before being discovered by passersby and reported to police.
Tice later told New Times he has no recollection of the altercation. Members of the group admitted to being intoxicated; one of them told police the group had consumed approximately “10 shots of vodka” each. The driver of the car verified to New Times that Sarna came to his defense.
Despite the alleged assault on the driver and the admitted intoxication of members of the group, only Sarna faced charges.
Sarna’s former attorney argued that he acted in self-defense and a series of plea deals followed, which the attorney encouraged him to take. But Sarna refused for what his fiancée told New Times was a desire to have members of the group admit their involvement in front of a jury.
That didn’t happen. Sarna accepted the deal to get out of jail and be with his fiancée and newborn daughter. But so far, that hasn’t happened either. According to Vogel, because Sarna was, at the time of the stabbing, on probation in Solano County for a previous conviction—assault with a deadly weapon, resulting from a fistfight—his release has been put on hold, and he remains in jail as of press time.
Probation officials have until March 28 to pick him up and return him to Solano County, where he may face further jail time for violating his probation.