October 16, 2021

Defendant takes plea in assault

Preble man accepts deal in 2019 attack on Main Street in Cortland

Jamie Costa/staff reporter

Brian S. Sanders, right, appears Thursday in Cortland County Court alongside his attorney, Luke Fenchel. Sanders pleaded guilty to first-degree assault in an agreement that would have him serve five years in prison for attacking a man in Cortland in 2019.

Brian S. Sanders of Preble pleaded guilty Thursday to assault in a plea agreement stemming from a 2019 attack on a man on Main Street in Cortland that brought an attempted murder indictment.

Sanders pleaded guilty in Cortland County Court to first-degree assault in an agreement that would have him serve five years in prison, rather than the potential 15 years if he was convicted of attempted second-degree murder.

Sanders, 28, of 6594 Route 281, was arrested Sept. 3, 2019 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. in Cortland, according to police documents.

A grand jury indicted him March 12 on those charges, plus attempted second-degree murder and second-degree assault, felonies.

Witnesses told police they heard Sanders yelling at Hall, with witnesses reporting that Sanders said Hall was gay and mentioning an incident when Sanders was 18.

Sanders attacked Hall, fracturing his skull, knocking him unconscious and slicing his neck three times with a torn soda can, court records show. Hall was hospitalized for months and placed into a medically induced coma. He suffers from seizures, permanent memory loss and permanent vision impairment.

David Ryan, an off-duty Cortland County sheriff’s officer, who was on Main Street during the fight, got Sanders off Hall and detained him until city police arrived about 6 p.m., 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 statement.

On Thursday, Cortland County Chief Assistant District Attorney Christopher Simser repeated an offer made last July that would sentence Sanders to five years in prison and five years probation. If Sanders did not accept the plea deal, Simser was ready to proceed to trial where Sanders would be tried on the original charges, which could result in a 15-year prison sentence if convicted.

“We have reviewed the indictment and we would like to waive a formal reading,” said Luke Fenchel, Sanders’ attorney. “We are prepared to accept the plea deal and plead guilty.”

Judge Julie Campbell accepted Sander’s guilty plea and set sentencing for May 20.