Man avoids hate crime charge, accepts plea in Sacramento stabbing

Timothy Brownell
Timothy Brownell

Timothy Brownell pleaded no contest to an assault charge stemming from a brawl with local musicians last June in a deal that dropped hate charges against the Sacramento man and averted a potential retrial.

Weeks after a jury deadlocked at his trial, Brownell pleaded no contest to a single count of assault in the June 2015 incident Friday before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Goodman. In exchange, Sacramento County prosecutors dropped the three counts of assault with a deadly weapon, an allegation that Brownell inflicted great bodily injury and the trio of hate crime allegations they had originally filed against Brownell.

The assault charge agreed to Friday carries a two-year term, but with time already served in Sacramento County custody in the case, Brownell could be released in about 3 1/2 months, said Leslie Ramos, Brownell’s defense attorney, on Friday. Brownell has been held in Sacramento County custody since the June 2015 incident.

“This is a resolution that puts finality to it,” Ramos said of Friday’s plea agreement.

Sacramento Superior Court jurors deadlocked in early February at Brownell’s trial before Judge Michael Savage on assault with a deadly weapon – a strike offense – and hate allegations.

Prosecutors at trial accused the 25-year-old military veteran of attacking a trio of local musicians on O Street with a knife and hurling homophobic slurs at the men because they wore skinny-legged jeans. Two of the men – Alex Lyman and Blake Abbey – were stabbed in the fracas, with Abbey requiring surgery for slashes to an arm.

But Brownell maintained that he never uttered the epithets and that he was the one under attack, surrounded by the three men and a fourth as he tried to hold them at bay, slashing at the men only after they went after a drinking buddy of Brownell’s.

Jurors unable to determine whether Brownell attacked the musicians as a hate crime or out of self-defense could not return a verdict after nearly three days of deliberation. It was unknown whether Sacramento County prosecutors planned to seek a second trial.

Abbey, Lyman and friend Weston Richmond moved out of Sacramento after the incident, but in a letter read to the court on Friday, Abbey said the incident left his life “completely changed.”

“I wish this had never happened to me, period. I hope and pray this doesn’t happen to anyone else at the hands of Timothy Brownell,” Abbey wrote.

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith

Related stories from Sacramento Bee