An ex-con charged in a 15-count indictment with slashing and punching a group of people in downtown Riverhead last month claims that he was acting in self-defense after the group tried to steal his bike, taunted him, and then started a fight, the man’s defense attorney claimed.
Anthony Wayne Smith, 56, of Riverhead was arraigned in Suffolk County court Thursday morning and held on $50,000 cash bail or $100,000 bond.
Mr. Smith — who was previously convicted of felonies for weapons possession in 1976 and assault in 2002 — is accused of cutting a man across the face with a box cutter and punching two other men on Railroad Avenue about 7:45 p.m. on Sept. 26.
The victim called police, who found the man bleeding from an apparent cut. The 32-year-old victim pointed out Mr. Smith, who was still at the scene, as the man who cut him, police said.
Prosecutors also said that Mr. Smith urinated on a police keyboard, broke handcuffs and threatened police and the “Hispanics who stand outside the train station.”
Defense attorney Carl Irace said Mr. Smith feels he was wrongfully arrested after the group tried to steal his bike, the only mode of transportation he owns. Mr. Smith also claims that the men wrapped belts around their fists and tried to strangle him during the brawl, Mr. Irace said.
“He was just defending himself,” Mr. Irace said in court. “I think if anyone were to be arrested after a situation like that, they might be upset.”
The alleged assault marks the 11th assault or robbery in the downtown area this year. Like most of the victims in the other incidents this year, the victims in last month’s incident were Hispanic, police had said.
Police sources later told the News-Review that the incident did not appear to be related to prior attacks.
Mr. Smith had previously been arrested in May when he was allegedly caught with a “gravity knife,” in violation of his parole. He was charged with felony weapons possession, though Mr. Irace said the charge had already been dropped down to a misdemeanor.
“The pending cases have legal and factual issues and he denies the allegations,” Mr. Irace said.
Two years ago, Mr. Smith received $350,000 in a settlement with the town over an alleged wrongful arrest. Mr. Smith had sued the town and two police officers in 1996, alleging that town police officers falsely arrested him for “asserting his free speech,” according to the suit.
Mr. Irace said after his court appearance that the charges — which includes two felonies for assault, one for criminal possession of a weapon and 12 misdemeanors for assault, criminal mischief, obstructing government administration and menacing — were “over-indicted.”
He said the victim who was alleged slashed did not have injuries that met the requirements for first-degree assault, the top charge.
“The injuries are relatively minor,” Mr. Irace said, adding that Mr. Smith intends to fight the charges in court.
Mr. Smith is due back in county court on Nov. 19.