Two Arrested In Knife Fight Claim Self Defense
Published: February 26th, 2010
By: Tyler Murphy

Two arrested in knife fight claim self defense

NORWICH – More details about a Saturday night fight came out in Norwich City Court Thursday, as the two men arrested in the melee appeared for a hearing.

Police charged 24-year-old Roberto Jose Otero of Norwich with three counts of first degree assault, one count of second degree assault, third degree criminal possession of a weapon and tampering with physical evidence, all felonies. In court Thursday, Otero pleaded innocent to the charges.

Investigators said Otero was wielding a three-inch collapsible blade during the Saturday night fight, injuring four other victims and accidentally cutting the arm of his friend during the altercation.

His friend, 33-year-old Bernie J. Infante of McDonough, was charged with second degree criminal nuisance, a misdemeanor. He appeared in Norwich City Court yesterday before Judge James Cushman and pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct, a violation, in a plea agreement with the district attorney’s office.

When asked if he had any comments to make before sentencing, Infante said, “I just want to be allowed to testify on my friend’s behalf. What happened to us was self-defense and it was racially motivated.”

Infante was released on a one-year conditional discharge and with time already served. He has been held at the Chenango County Correctional Facility since his arrest Feb. 20 on $500 bail.

The incident began at about 10:30 p.m. Saturday when police were called to a disturbance on North Broad Street in front of the Broad Street Tavern in downtown Norwich after a fight broke out among a group of patrons on the sidewalk.

Norwich Police Chief Joseph Angelino said the first officer to arrive at the scene found one of the victims laying on the pavement screaming and grasping his neck as blood gushed from between his hands. The officer immediately rushed the man to Chenango Memorial Hospital.

A moment later, a second city officer arrived and was directed by eyewitnesses to where the Otero and Infante had fled from the scene.

Officers arrested both men at gunpoint along Mechanic Street minutes after the incident took place. Both were taken into custody “without incident,” said Angelino. He said Otero was charged with tampering with evidence because he attempted to dispose of the knife right before he was arrested.

Police said the man who suffered stab wounds to his neck was later transported to Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse for further treatment. A second victim suffered an 8-inch laceration across his face and a third suffered deep cuts to his forearm that police said severed some arteries. A fourth victim was treated at CMH for unknown non-life threatening lacerations and stab wounds, according to police. Both Infante and Otero were also taken to the hospital and treated for injuries, including a knife cut across Infante’s arm.

One of those alleged victims, Norman Wilbur, appeared in court Thursday with a black eye and an 8-inch laceration from his ear to his chin. He testified that Otero started the fight by striking him in the head.

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