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.

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