A Sacramento prosecutor implored jurors Thursday to convict Timothy Brownell of assault with a deadly weapon and a hate crime in a bloody knife attack on three local musicians last June, calling the alleged attack and anti-gay slurs “exactly the kind of conduct that this community should check.”
“This can’t go unchecked,” Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Satnam Rattu told jurors Thursday during closing arguments in Brownell’s trial in Sacramento Superior Court. “Return those verdicts.”
Brownell faces charges stemming from the violent incident on O Street outside Alley Katz about midnight on June 22 that left musicians Alex Lyman and Blake Abbey with stab wounds and another man, Weston Richmond, with minor injuries. Sacramento police later investigated the case as a hate crime after claims on social media that Brownell uttered anti-gay slurs before the incident.
But Brownell’s attorney said the bloody incident was not motivated by anti-gay bias – his mother and his best friend are gay, she said. Instead, it was an act of self-preservation against a drunken “wolf pack” that surrounded the 25-year-old Army veteran outside the O Street bar before setting upon newfound friend Miguel Herrera.
“Tim Brownell is innocent. He had every right to use a knife to defend Mr. Herrera,” said Brownell defense counsel Leslie Ramos, adding later that even if Brownell had uttered a slur, it would not rise to the level of a hate crime, invoking hate crime victims Matthew Shepard and James Byrd.
Rattu rejected the claim: “It’s offensive to say that for a hate crime to be charged that someone has to die.”
Attorneys said security video that captured the late-night incident doesn’t lie. But, in their hands, it told vastly different versions of the violent encounter.
To Rattu, the images show a knife-wielding Brownell slashing at musicians Lyman, Abbey and Richmond in the middle of O Street after lobbing anti-gay slurs from his perch outside the Alley Katz bar, his rage triggered by the skinny-legged pants they wore.
“ ‘Look at those (slur) in their skinny jeans.’ Those are the hurtful slurs uttered by the defendant,” Rattu told jurors. “Because they didn’t submit to those slurs, they didn’t run away, he pulls out a knife, leaving carnage behind.”
Abbey’s arm – “filleted” in Rattu’s words – required surgery. Lyman’s wound came within a centimeter of his spleen, the prosecutor said.
To Ramos, the video shows Brownell fending off the trio and at least one other man with a knife, before going after the group with the blade only after they turned on Herrera. Ramos said Brownell fled for his apartment nearby following the fracas and, shaken, called his mother.
Ramos accused the three men of changing their stories on the stand to fit the Alley Katz’s security video shown by Rattu at trial, saying they were too drunk to fully recall what happened in the incident.
Abbey, Lyman and Richmond had spent the day on the river before making the rounds at bars Tank House and Low Brau, Ramos said. All three received blood alcohol tests following the violent brawl. Abbey’s blood alcohol content was .19, more than twice the legal limit, Ramos said. Lyman’s registered at .128; Richmond reportedly told officers that he was “pretty drunk.”
“The guys all change their stories from what they told officers in June. They didn’t really remember what happened. They were intoxicated,” Ramos said.
Ramos also accused the men of lying to police in the hours after the fight to “minimize their own responsibility for the fight,” then exploiting the incident to publicize their bands. “It promoted their bands, gave them relevance,” she said.
Rattu sharply rejected Ramos’ argument in his rebuttal, calling it “offensive,” and saying Brownell’s deep-seated issues with homosexuality were triggered that June night.
“This whole thing jumps off because of the defendant,” Rattu said. “He stabs people who aren’t armed.”