A 22-year-old Vallejo man accused of stabbing another man during a late-night altercation in downtown SLO in January 2012 rejected a final plea offer by the District Attorney’s Office, and it seems the case will now be heading before jurors in mid-March.
At a Feb. 19 discovery hearing that would be Austin Sarna’s second-to-last court appearance before jury selection, Deputy District Attorney Lee Cunningham provided defense attorney Fred Foss with a list of criminal convictions for the alleged victims in the case, whom Foss expects to call to testify at trial.
Sarna currently faces one count of attempted murder and another of assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly slashing the arm of Atascadero resident Trevor Tice, 27, after defending a motorist who was allegedly being assaulted by Tice and a group of up to six others. Zachary Lerno, 27, also suffered a minor cut to the head that didn’t require medical treatment.
At issue is whether Sarna was acting in self-defense when his slashing with the knife severed an artery in Tice’s bicep, Foss said in court. The thus-far unnamed driver Sarna allegedly came to help previously told New Times he was outnumbered and being assaulted when Sarna approached the group, brandishing a knife, and told them to leave. Foss said the driver has since contacted him and offered to testify in Sarna’s defense.
Cunningham revealed in court that Tice has two previous convictions: a drunk in public conviction from December 2011, and a second from 2009 that was later dismissed following community service; he was also arrested in December 2003 for battery resulting in great bodily injury, a misdemeanor that was later dismissed.
Tice admitted to investigators that he has no recollection of the Sarna incident. Members of the group later told investigators that they had been drinking heavily that night; the sober driver of the bunch estimated that the others had enjoyed some 10 shots of vodka each.
The hearing was also Sarna’s last chance to accept a plea offer from the DA’s Office, the fourth such offer so far, which would have Sarna plead guilty to one felony count of assault with force likely to inflict great bodily injury—a non-“Strike” charge under California’s Three Strikes law—and dismissed the attempted murder charge. According to Foss, had Sarna accepted the deal, he would have been out of custody by the end of the day, though subject to probation. Instead, Sarna will now have to fight both original charges.
Sarna is scheduled for a pre-trial readiness conference March 12, and jury selection is slated to commence March 19 in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.