Two residents at the off-campus dorm near Schenectady County Community College almost lost their lives in a February knife assault, all over a dispute over a piece of fruit, a prosecutor said Wednesday in opening statements at the suspect’s trial.
Henzlee R. Miranda became enraged, threatened three fellow building residents and started a fight that he ended with a knife, prosecutor Michael DeMatteo told the Schenectady County Court jury.
“It was all because of the anger he had over a single banana being taken,” DeMatteo told the jury.
Miranda’s defense attorney, Mark Gaylord, countered in his own opening that the stolen food issue was ongoing. After the latest confrontation, his client “had the good sense” to arm himself because he feared he’d be attacked.
“He was attacked in his room and he defended himself,” Gaylord said.
Miranda, 21, of the Bronx, is standing trial in Schenectady County Court on charges of first-degree assault in the Feb. 15 stabbing inside the College Suites at Washington Square.
Miranda is accused of using a knife to attack Gregory Laine and Shaqill Pluviose inside the suite. Both men survived life-threatening wounds, DeMatteo said. A third man, Ceon Gordon, escaped uninjured.
Laine lived in the same suite as Miranda, and Pluviose and Gordon lived in the dorm, a privately owned student housing complex across from the SCCC campus. Residents of each suite have private rooms but share a common area, DeMatteo said.
DeMatteo said that after concluding that either Laine, Pluviose or Gordon took a banana from his food in the suite common area, Miranda found the three at a vending machine in the building. The building manager witnessed the interaction, DeMatteo said.
Miranda invited the three back to the suite. DeMatteo said the three didn’t take the confrontation or Miranda seriously because of the nature of the dispute, and instead went to Pluviose’s suite for about 40 minutes.
Finally, concerned about Laine’s belongings, the three returned to Miranda’s and Laine’s suite, where Miranda waited inside his own room with the door open. Miranda approached them and made reference to the earlier confrontation, and his demeanor led one of the three to throw a punch, DeMatteo said.
A fight ensued, ending up inside Miranda’s room, the prosecutor said. Miranda pulled the knife and stabbed both Laine and Pluviose, DeMatteo said. All three fled with Miranda chasing them. Laine and Pluviose made it to the Stockade Deli nearby.
DeMatteo argued that Miranda provoked the fight and introduced deadly physical force against three unarmed men. The evidence will show he had no justification, the prosecutor said.
Gaylord attempted to paint the three men as the aggressors, arguing they entered Miranda’s private room and attacked him. Miranda had nowhere to go and had to repel the attack with the knife.
Presiding Judge Matthew Sypniewski twice admonished Gaylord, first after he called the prosecution’s contention to the jury that Miranda attacked over a banana an “insult to your intelligence.” The second admonishment came after Gaylord referred to the three men as “punks.” Gaylord complied and immediately switched to calling them “gentlemen,” noting at least one has a criminal history.
“These three guys will come in here and try to play you. . . . Somehow they will try to convince you folks that this was just all about that, a one-dollar banana and that Mr. Miranda was the aggressor,” Gaylord told the jury.
“It’s not a crime when you’re exercising self-defense,” Gaylord concluded. “You’ll see that’s exactly what happened in this case.”
Miranda’s trial is expected to last at least two weeks. He is free on bail.
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