A man who nearly disemboweled another man with a knife outside a Clifton Park nightclub in 2011 was convicted Wednesday of one assault charge but acquitted of a more serious count.
A Saratoga County jury on Wednesday morning announced its verdict: Daniel P. Taylor, 29, of East Caroga Lake, was guilty of felony second-degree assault and misdemeanor criminal possession of a weapon but acquitted of first-degree assault, which requires evidence of intent to cause serious or deadly harm.
Taylor stabbed Joseph Fritz, then 40, of Schenectady, in the parking lot of Northern Lights nightclub after the two got into a fight over whether Fritz was following Taylor’s girlfriend.
They were attending a two-day music festival called “Rat-a-tat-tat” that also included tattoo artists and tarot card readers and featured the band Sick of It All. Northern Lights is now called Upstate Concert Hall.
The two, who were already acquainted, got into an argument in the parking lot that ended with Taylor stabbing Fritz, cutting open his abdomen from one side of his ribcage to the other and slicing two inches deep into his liver. Taylor argued he was defending himself against a drunken attack by Fritz that he feared could cripple his previously injured shoulder. The jury disagreed.
After being stabbed, Fritz stumbled to the nearby Cumberland Farms and collapsed on a car.
A physician happened to be there pumping gas, Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy III said.
“The doctor saved his life, basically. You could see [Fritz’s] intestines.”
Fritz was flown to Albany Medical Center, where his gallbladder was removed and he needed about 65 staples to close the wound.
“He’s relieved today,” Murphy said Wednesday of Fritz, adding that the experience of waiting for the verdict was “daunting, frustrating and overwhelming” for the victim. “He thinks justice was done by the jury.”
The jury deliberated for three days after the two-week trial that began April 15 before Saratoga County Court Judge Jerry J. Scarano.
Prosecutors said in a statement that they called more than 25 witnesses and entered more than 100 pieces of physical evidence, including photographs, Fritz’s clothing, video of Taylor and forensic evidence. The knife was never recovered.
The minimum sentence for the second-degree assault charge is two years in state prison and the maximum is seven years. Taylor’s defense attorney Frederick Rench said he and attorney Kurt Mausert, who worked together on Taylor’s case, will seek the minimum term for Taylor, a sculptor who Rench said had never been arrested before the Nov. 26, 2011, incident.
“This is a defense victory, but not to the extent that we had hoped,” Rench said after the verdict was announced.
Sentencing is set for June 27.
Taylor was indicted in March 2012 on five charges altogether, and prosecutors dropped two of them before the trial: one additional count each of first- and second-degree assault.
The defense made a case that Taylor intended only to brandish the 3-inch blade to get Fritz to back off after Fritz attacked Taylor from behind, jumping on him and pushing Taylor to his knees. Rench called the stabbing a “fluke” that happened when Taylor pivoted to face Fritz while steadying the knife against his hip for stability because of his bad shoulder.
But Assistant District Attorney Debra Kaelin said the severity of the 16-inch wound showed that Taylor did mean to hurt the unarmed Fritz; she maintained Taylor then walked away from Fritz and ditched the knife to hide his actions from authorities.
“The jury listened very carefully, reviewed the evidence and made the appropriate decision as to who was telling the truth,” Kaelin said in the statement. “They did not ‘buy into’ the baseless self-defense claim.”
Rench thanked the jury, which “obviously worked very hard on the case.”
The defense is considering options for appeal, Rench said, adding attorneys can file a notice of appeal within 30 days of the sentencing. They would appeal to the state Supreme Court Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department, in Albany.
Right now, the attorneys are considering appealing on “insufficiency of the evidence.”
“I think the jury convicted [Taylor] on sympathy for the victim,” Rench said.