A 64-year-old man on trial for stabbing a younger man in a road rage incident last year in Wilton plans to argue self-defense, his lawyer said as testimony began Tuesday.
Frank Soriano, of Damascus Drive, Wilton, is charged with first- and second-degree assault, attempted first-degree assault and criminal possession of a weapon for stabbing Jeffrey Streicher several times after punching him.
Soriano plans to claim self-defense, his attorney, Michael Koenig, said in opening statements Tuesday morning, adding that Soriano pulled a knife on Streicher, 42, because Streicher punched him first and wouldn’t stop.
The two sides agree that Soriano stabbed Streicher on Sept. 10, 2011, and that the two men punched each other after engaging in aggressive driving and getting into a fender-bender.
Streicher was stabbed in the back, side and arm. He was flown to Albany Medical Center but was released after staying overnight. He has since recovered from his injuries.
What is in dispute is who started driving aggressively and who threw the first punch when they got out of their cars, something witnesses will disagree about also, according to the attorneys’ opening statements.
The defense appears poised to make much of the fact that Soriano is 20 years older and several inches shorter than the alleged victim. Streicher is 6-foot-1. Soriano is 5-foot-7 and a former state corrections officer.
Streicher suffers from a traumatic brain injury from a long-ago car crash, and Koenig said during his opening statement that Streicher also has a mood disorder.
Two jurors were dismissed from the case Tuesday because of illness and alternates have taken their place. The jurors number six men and six women.
The attorneys plan to call at least 20 witnesses and expect the trial to last the better part of a week.
Assistant District Attorney Ann Sullivan said Streicher, who lives in Gloversville, dropped his wife off at the CVS on Route 9 near the intersection with Northern Pines Road to get a birthday card for his brother and headed to his mother’s house. He was going to feed her cats before picking his wife up from the store and going to his brother’s birthday party nearby, Sullivan said.
He was driving a black Ford Focus.
“Mere minutes after Jeffrey Streicher dropped his wife off at the CVS, he was confronted by this enraged defendant,” she said.
Soriano was also at CVS that day and pulled out behind Streicher from the parking lot, driving a silver Hyundai Sonata. Both crossed Route 9 onto Northern Pines Road.
Seeing Soriano behind him, Streicher waved an arm out the window for Soriano to pass, Sullivan said. Soriano did, but then slowed down and “nearly stopped” when he was in front of Streicher, she said.
Streicher then passed Soriano and as the two went through the intersection of Northern Pines and Carr roads, Soriano’s bumper hit Streicher’s car from behind, Sullivan said.
Both pulled their cars to the side of the road and Soriano got out and approached Streicher’s car and began punching him, Sullivan said. Streicher initially acted with surprise but then fought back, she said.
“Jeffrey Streicher will tell you that the defendant put him into a bear hug from behind, a bear hug that he couldn’t get out of.” That was when Soriano stabbed Streicher with a T-handled dagger after slamming him up against the rear driver’s side door of his car so hard that the door came off its mechanism, she said.
“Jeffrey Streicher will tell you that he was only able to get loose when he punched the defendant in the face and kneed him in the groin.”
Koenig gave a different account of events, saying Streicher was driving erratically from the time they left CVS — driving fast and then slowing down.
After the two passed each other and had a fender-bender, “It was Jeffrey Streicher — bigger, younger, stronger — who emerged from his vehicle and came up on Frank Soriano,” Koenig said. “Frank Soriano didn’t want what happened next.”
Koenig described Streicher as being angry and landing the first punch, with Soriano trying to hold his own.
“He acted as the law allows him to act,” Koenig said.
Finally, Soriano pulled the knife that he has carried with him for years and “slashed” Streicher, Koenig said.