A 22-year-old Vallejo man accused of attempted murder for his role in a late-night altercation in downtown San Luis Obispo, which left an Atascadero man with a serious laceration, will take his case to trial, arguing self-defense.
Austin Sarna is facing attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon charges following a January 2012 incident in which he says he came to the defense of a motorist who was allegedly being assaulted by a group of at least six men, though it’s unclear how many people in the group physically took part in the fight. According to investigators’ reports, Sarna admitted to brandishing a knife to the group and telling them to leave the motorist alone before being knocked to the ground.
According to multiple witness accounts, Sarna was being punched and kicked in the face when he lashed out with the knife, repeatedly stabbing Trevor Tice, 27, who witnesses say had Sarna pinned to the ground.
Tice suffered eight minor wounds to his back and a serious slash to his left bicep, which severed an artery and caused bleeding that could have been fatal had passersby not alerted police. Tice told New Times he has no recollection of the events.
Police said in an early press release that facts in the case were cloudy due to the intoxication of the alleged victim and the members of the group, although there’s no indication Sarna had been drinking that night, according to police reports.
Sarna is the only person involved in the incident facing charges.
On Jan. 29, Sarna rejected a plea bargain by the D.A.’s Office that would have dismissed his attempted murder charge in exchange for a guilty plea on assault with a deadly weapon charges, which would count as a “strike” according to California’s Three Strikes law, and likely result in a two-year sentence in state prison—though that would likely be reduced by about half due to the state’s new prison realignment. He originally faced approximately eight years, according to DA spokesman Jerret Gran.
Deputy District Attorney Lee Cunningham said the offer will still be good for one week—until Sarna’s next preliminary hearing, set for Feb. 5, the same day Superior Court Judge John Trice will re-evaluate Sarna’s bail. A trial date has been tentatively set for March 19.