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Judge Finds Probable Cause in Claremont Stabbing Incident

Claremont — A circuit court judge found yesterday there is probable cause to potentially indict Eric Sanborn for allegedly stabbing another man in the parking lot of Wal-Mart Jan. 7 following a verbal confrontation.

Sanborn, 24, is charged with first-degree felony assault and being a felon in possession of a deadly weapon. He remains held at the Sullivan County House of Corrections on $25,000 bail.

Probable cause hearings are held to determine if there is sufficient evidence to proceed with a criminal indictment. With yesterday’s finding by the judge, the case will most likely be presented to a grand jury, which will decide whether Sanborn should be indicted.

Public defender Joe Frankel, of Keene, argued before Fifth Circuit Court Judge Jack Yazinski that Sanborn’s bail should be set at $5,000, saying that his client has ties to the community as well as a construction job and a child he is trying to support — all of which do not make him a flight risk. Sullivan County Attorney Marc Hathaway requested a $100,000 cash bail. Hathway said Sanborn, who has two other first degree assault convictions “has a penchant for using a knife and represents a threat to the community.”

Yesterday morning’s 45-minute hearing centered on testimony from Claremont Police Sgt. Stanley Andrewski, who investigated the alleged assault. Sanborn is accused of stabbing Peter Ilinicki in the chest area with a box cutter knife, causing a six-inch laceration. Ilinicki was not seriously hurt.

Under questioning from Hathaway, Andrewski repeated most of what was contained in the affidavit from Claremont Police Corporal Brent Wilmot, who was the first on the scene and took Sanborn into custody.

Andrewski said that based on witness interviews, there was verbal confrontation inside the Wal-Mart store involving Ilnicki and his two brothers with another group. It continued outside in the parking lot and that is when Sanborn became involved and is alleged to have pushed Ilnicki.

“Peter Ilnicki thought he had been pushed and when he looked down, he realized he had been cut,” Andrewski said, adding that he told police Sanborn had done it.

Andrewski also said in his testimony that two people with Sanborn, Amber Kinney and her bother Cody Kinney, both saw him reach for the knife in his pocket while Ilnicki and his brothers were walking away.

“The three were walking away and Mr. Sanborn appeared then to reach for the knife and she told him not do to it. Telling him not to do that. Something with the knife, ” the officer related.

Frankel’s questioning attempted to raise doubt as to whether Sanborn did the stabbing.

“Did anyone say they saw the stabbing?” Frankel asked Andrewski.

“Not a single one,” he replied.

Frankel said Kinney told police their friend tried to “de-escalate” the situation, which had started inside the store.

Frankel also showed surveillance tapes from the Wal-Mart parking lot that showed how the incident unfolded shortly before 6 p.m. that Monday night.

Though shown from a distance, Frankel pointed out the individuals involved, including one still unidentified male who was near Sanborn as he approached the three brothers while they were walking away.

Frankel’s questions about lineup, fingerprints on the knife, blood samples, DNA sample and more were met with objections from Hathaway who said they were not relevant to determining probable cause.

Frankel also introduced the notion of self-defense on his client’s behalf. The unknown individual in the surveillance tape, no witnesses to the stabbing, fighting after the alleged stabbing and other factors all made probable cause sketchy, he argued.

On the assertion of self-defense, Hathaway said no witnesses characterized Sanborn’s actions as such and implicit in a claim of self-defense is that Sanborn had in fact committed the stabbing.

“He is the aggressor here and is going to have the last action,” Hathaway said.

Frankel quickly added that he only said there were “elements of self-defense,” not a claim Sanborn acted in self-defense.

Hathaway said Sanborn’s actions offer plenty of evidence for probable cause of the assault and possession of a deadly weapon.

Judge Yazinski agreed.

“There is lots of reasonable doubt but that is not why we are here. There is sufficient evidence for probable cause,” the judge concluded.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.