March 24, 2019

DA offers plea for downtown stabbing

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Manslaughter defendant Andrew Pilcher, left, attends a hearing with his defense attorney Luke Fenchel, right, Thursday at the Cortland County Courthouse.

A man indicted on charges stemming from a fatal stabbing in downtown Cortland in August has a week to decide whether he wants to take a plea deal offered by the Cortland County District Attorney’s Office that could send him to prison for four to 12 years.

“He really has until about Thursday because if he’s not going forward with this we’re at the point of looking at other options,” District Attorney Patrick Perfetti said.

Andrew J. Pilcher was indicted Dec. 21 by a grand jury in Cortland County Court on charges of first-degree manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter and tampering with evidence, felonies. First-degree manslaughter is when someone intends to cause serious physical injury, but instead causes the death of that person. He was also indicted on the misdemeanor of fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

Cortland police said Pilcher stabbed Damian. Grant, of 10 Woodruff St., Cortland, once in the chest about 2:15 a.m. Aug. 29 in a pocket park between 10 Main St., and 16 Main St. Court documents state that an argument between Pilcher and Grant started over a cigarette.

Witnesses told police Grant and his girlfriend encountered Pilcher and his friends around 2:10 a.m. Aug. 29. Grant asked for a cigarette; Pilcher let him have a puff of one his girlfriend had been smoking.

Witnesses differ over what followed. One witness said there was no physical altercation before the stabbing; another said Grant was agitated and jumping around; a third said Grant was aggressive and trying to get Pilcher to fight.

After the stabbing, Grant walked north toward Groton Avenue, where medics from a TLC Emergency Medical Services ambulance found and treated him, although his heart had stopped. He was pronounced dead at what is now Guthrie Cortland Medical Center.

Police searching Pilcher’s apartment found a black Tac Force folding knife in a kitchen island drawer. Police said it tested positive for blood. Pilcher had told police he punched Grant in the ribs with his key.

Assistant District Attorney Christopher Simser offered to drop the first-degree manslaughter and evidence tampering charges in return for a guilty plea to second-degree manslaughter. Second-degree manslaughter is when a person recklessly causes the death of another person. As part of the plea deal, the district attorney’s office would also recommend a sentence of four to 12 years in prison.

The maximum sentence for second-degree manslaughter is three to 15 years.

First-degree manslaughter can carry a sentence of five to 25 years in prison, according to state penal law.

Perfetti said Pilcher could get an unconditional discharge, however, Perfetti said such a sentence is rare and the three times he saw that sentence were related to traffic matters.

Perfetti also said probation of three to five years is a sentencing option.

“It’s used commonly with both misdemeanors and felonies in court, but not in felonies where there’s a deceased,” Perfetti said.

Cortland County Judge Julie Campbell gave Simser until noon Tuesday to turn in victim impact statements. She also gave Pilcher’s lawyer Luke Fenchel until noon Tuesday to turn in anything he wished for her to consider.

Perfetti said the defense is looking to turn in documents with factors for the court to consider “to see if the judge will make a firm sentence commitment or at least put a cap on what the worst case would be for a sentence.”

“They would certainly be looking to argue for a lower sentence,” Perfetti said. One of those factors Perfetti said is likely to turned in to the court is that Pilcher has no prior criminal record.

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