December 6, 2021

Evaluation set in assault case

Competency exam ordered for Preble man accused in 2019 beating

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Brian S. Sanders sits Thursday with his attorney, Luke fenchel, left, in a Cortland County courtroom. Sanders was in court to enter a plea in a beating last year that left a man in critical condition, but judge julie A. Campbell ordered a mental competency examination instead.

A Preble man accused of beating a Cortland man so severely he was sent to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse for critical condition was ordered Thursday in Cortland County Court to have his mental competency determined.

Brian S. Sanders, 27, of 6594 Route 281, was arrested Sept. 3 and charged with first-degree assault and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, felonies, accused of assaulting Harold F. Hall, then 55, near 44 Main St, according to police documents.

At Thursday’s appearance, Assistant District Attorney Christopher Simser brought up that a plea agreement had been offered to Sanders: five years in prison and five years of post-release supervision in return for a guilty plea to one count of second-degree assault.

Defense attorney Luke Fenchel said Sanders was in agreement, but then brought up a request for a competency examination that was raised when the case was first in Cortland City Court.

This gave Simser pause. “I’m not going to take a plea if there is a question of competency,” he said.

Simser said he came to the hearing prepared only to have the defense enter the plea and then have the case be adjourned until sentencing.

Fenchel then requested to withdraw the examination request, but Judge Julie A. Campbell responded that Fenchel was trying to “muddy the record” for contradicting himself.

Sanders said he did not want a mental competency examination.

Campbell asked Sanders if he had any medical conditions. Sanders said he has schizophrenia and post traumatic stress disorder, but takes medication for the conditions.

Because of Fenchel’s mixed requests, Campbell ordered Sanders to undergo a mental examination and provide the court the names of the medication he takes.

Sanders is next scheduled to appear at 11 a.m. on Sept. 17.

Multiple witnesses told police they heard Sanders yelling at Hall on Sept. 3, with some saying the comments were about Hall being gay and making reference to an incident when Sanders was 18, before Sanders attacked Hall, causing head injuries, and repeatedly slicing him with a torn-apart soda can.

David Ryan, an off-duty Cortland County sheriff’s officer, who was on Main Street during the fight, got Sanders off of Hall and detained him until police arrived, Ryan said in his police statement.

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