October 16, 2021

Bail set in assault case

Kevin Conlon/City Editor

Brian Sanders, left, is escorted Thursday from Cortland City Court after his arraignment on first-degree assault. Police said he brutally beat a man on Main Street in Cortland on Tuesday.

The Cortland County District Attorney’s Office may charge a Preble man accused of assaulting a man Tuesday in downtown Cortland with attempted murder, as a witnesses detailed what happened during the attack.

“We’re considering that, your honor, but it doesn’t mean we’re going to do that,” Christopher Simser, an assistant district attorney, said during an appearance Wednesday in Cortland City Court.

Brian S. Sanders, 26, of 6594 Route 281, is charged with first-degree assault and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, felonies. Sanders was arrested around 6 p.m. Tuesday after police said he attacked Harold F. Hall, 55, near 44 Main St.

He appeared in court where he was assigned Luke Fenchel as his lawyer and Cortland City Court Judge Elizabeth Burns set bail at $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond.

Christopher L. Hay told police he was leaving Downtown Deli when he noticed a man, later identified as Sanders, who had been walking Main Street, turn around, yell at Hall and begin punching him.

Jaycette J. Blake said in a statement to police that she, her boyfriend Chad Nelson and 7-month-old child were heading to the Under Your Skin tattoo parlor and parked near the Tompkins Trust Co. when they heard yelling a few cars down.

“I couldn’t see what was going on until I got onto the sidewalk and I saw a guy standing over another guy and he was kicking and stomping the guy on the ground in his back and in his face,” she said.

She said that Hall was bleeding and spitting blood. She told police that she heard the crumpling of a metal can and saw Sanders walk over to Hall and make three slicing motions.

“I didn’t see cuts, but I did see the white guys (Hall’s) left arm flop onto the ground and it was covered in blood,” she said.

A couple of witnesses said Sanders yelled that Hall was gay and referred to an incident with Hall when Sanders was 18, but details in their statements were redacted in court documents.

Nelson told police in a statement that Hall “looked like he was trying to get away when he got knocked to the ground” and was yelling for help.

He also said Sanders threatened him when he tried to break the incident up. Nelson said Hall was yelling various things even after off-duty Cortland County sheriff’s Officer David Ryan tackled him and held him down until police arrived.

“While he was being held down I heard him saying to the officer that ‘he didn’t care, he was already going to jail that guy (redacted) I wish I would have shot him,’” Nelson said.

Ryan told police he saw Sanders attack Hall with a soda can he had ripped apart trying to cut at Hall’s neck.

“The victim had a pool of blood coming from his nose and mouth and he was gasping for air,” Ryan said.

He said Sanders was yelling that he would kill Hall. Ryan ran over to Sanders, pushed him down and detained him.

“As I was holding him down the assailant said to me ‘I wish I had killed him, I wish I would have shot him.’”

Laura Dunbar said she heard shouting from her apartment at 44 Main St. and saw two men fighting, recognizing Hall, a neighbor, as one of the people.

“Harold had head injuries, his eyes were swollen, there was blood from his head and mouth,” she said. “It looked like he had taken a really traumatic injury to his right temple.”

Hall was taken to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, where he remains in critical condition in the surgical intensive care unit. Lt. Michael Strangeway said his worst injuries were sustained from being stomped on.

Sanders is due to appear 3 p.m. Wednesday in Cortland City Court.