Man pleads not guilty in sword attack
BRATTLEBORO -- An incident involving a sword left two men bloody Sunday night in Brattleboro, but only one of those men is facing criminal charges at this point.
Edward W. Hernandez, 41, of Elliot Street, pleaded not guilty Monday to one felony count of aggravated assault with a weapon in connection with wounds suffered by Daniel Silverman, 43, at a Canal Street apartment.
Judge Katherine Hayes lowered Hernandez's bail from $20,000 to $10,000 at arraignment in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division. But Hernandez still left the courtroom in custody after Hayes -- noting factors including the seriousness of the charge -- declined to grant the suspect's request for no cash bail.
"It's lucky that the complaining witness in this matter survived," Hayes said.
Brattleboro police were summoned at 10:34 p.m. Sunday for a reported stabbing at a Canal Street residence. The first officer on scene had to break a window to gain entry to the apartment building because an outside door was locked, according to court papers released after Hernandez's arraignment.
The officer noticed "large amounts of blood" on doors, the hallway floor, walls and stairs. He also saw a black sheath lying in the hallway, according to an affidavit filed by Detective Jonathan Griffus.
Inside the apartment, the victim was "sitting on the floor cross-legged and bleeding heavily."
Silverman told police that, around 10 p.m. at his residence, he went downstairs to smoke a cigarette and, "as soon as he got outside, he was hit in the back of the head."
"Silverman stated when he turned around, some guy was saying something about a sword and then reaches up with a sword, and as the male was bringing the sword down, Silverman grabbed the sword with both his hands," the affidavit says.
Silverman sustained injuries to both hands, his right bicep and his right chest, court papers say. He was treated at and subsequently released from Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.
A neighbor told police that he had heard yelling and "saw Silverman and a black male who he described as well-built, about six feet tall with black dreadlocks, heading in opposite directions."
The black male departed in a light-colored or white Subaru wagon, the witness said. Officers knew Hernandez "from prior involvements" and found his white Subaru wagon in Harmony Lot, noting that there were "two drops of what appeared to be blood on the ground outside of the driver's door," the affidavit says.
Griffus wrote that he also saw blood on the driver's seat and steering wheel.
No one answered knocks at Hernandez's door, but police were granted a search warrant around 3 a.m. Monday. Hernandez was arrested and transported to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital "to be treated for approximately five stab/slice wounds."
Hernandez waived his rights and told police a different story from the one related by Silverman. Hernandez said he and the victim's girlfriend drank "a couple beers" Sunday night, and she asked for a ride home, according to court documents.
At the Canal Street apartment, Hernandez claimed that Silverman became agitated and attacked him with a sword. "Hernandez stated he fought with Silverman and removed the sword from Silverman's hands," the affidavit says. "Hernandez stated, while fighting with Silverman, Silverman was punching him in the back of the head. Hernandez stated that's when he assumed Silverman also had a knife and stabbed him."
Hernandez told investigators that, once he returned to his home, "he didn't call the police or seek medical treatment because he didn't want to admit to driving to Canal Street after drinking and get charged with a DUI."
The suspect said he soon fell asleep and also "denied leaving the scene with a sword or attacking Silverman," the affidavit says.
A supplemental affidavit filed in the case presents yet another scenario -- that the assault was the result of a "drug deal gone bad." The victim's girlfriend told Brattleboro police Detective Lt. Michael Carrier that there had been a botched attempt on Sunday to procure crack cocaine for a woman who then became upset and solicited help from Hernandez.
Hernandez went to Silverman's apartment with a sword, "saying he wanted the money" that was supposed to have been used for the drug purchase, according to this version of the story. A struggle ensued, and Silverman was able to get the sword away from Hernandez.
There were no other charges filed in the case on Monday, though police in a press release said it "is still considered an active investigation."
Hernandez initially was held on $20,000 bail early Monday morning. At arraignment Monday afternoon, Windham County Deputy State's Attorney Steven Brown asked for a continuation of that bail as well as conditions of release that include no contact with the victim or his girlfriend.
Brown noted that Hernandez's record includes failures to appear in court, and he told Hayes that the suspect also is facing charges of domestic assault, stalking and interference with access to emergency services; those counts were filed by Brattleboro police in March.
Hernandez's record shows "what appears to be escalating conduct," Brown said.
Defense attorney Benjamin Schultz entered a not-guilty plea and asked Hayes to not impose monetary bail. Schultz described Hernandez as a longtime Brattleboro resident who is a musician and a carpenter for a Wilmington company.
"He is not a risk of flight," Schultz said. "All his ties are to this community."
While acknowledging the pending domestic-assault charges, Schultz said his client has been abiding by court-ordered conditions of release since March. Schultz also noted the conflicting stories police heard after Sunday night's incident.
"Mr. Hernandez was severely injured in this incident as well. He received some stab wounds in his own neck and chest," Schultz said. "I think the facts in this case are quite complicated and are going to require a lot of investigation to find out exactly what happened."
Hayes decided some cash bail was warranted.
"It is true that Mr. Hernandez has very, very strong local ties," the judge said. "On the other hand, this new charge is something very different from any charge that Mr. Hernandez has faced before."
Hernandez's record stretches back to the late 1990s and includes misdemeanor convictions in Brattleboro for two drunken-driving offenses; disorderly conduct; marijuana possession; simple assault and violating conditions of release.
In the pending domestic case from March, Brattleboro police said the victim reported "a pattern of abuse and harassment" by Hernandez.
"I get scared to walk out to my car because it's so dark and no one is around," police wrote in an affidavit, quoting the woman. "I never know where or when he'll pop up or what he'll do next."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.
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