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Man pleads guilty to reckless endangerment in stabbing

January 13, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Even though he said he was seriously injured when his brother-in-law speared him with a samurai-style sword, Michael Brandon Barnett testified in Washington County Circuit Court Monday that he did not oppose his attacker's guilty plea to the least serious crime with which he was charged.

"It was accidental, and it helped me in the long run," Barnett said of the Aug. 17, 2003, incident.

Hagerstown Police Department officers said David Allen Banzhoff Jr. lunged at Barnett with the sword during an argument at their East Franklin Street apartment.

Banzhoff, 23, of 113 E. Franklin St., was charged with attempted second-degree murder, first- and second-degree assault, and reckless endangerment in connection with the incident.

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Banzhoff on Monday pleaded guilty to the reckless endangerment charge. As part of a plea agreement, the Washington County State's Attorney's Office dropped the remaining charges.

The maximum prison sentence for a reckless endangerment conviction is five years.

The maximum sentence for conviction on a charge of attempted second-degree murder is 30 years. For a first-degree assault conviction, the maximum sentence is 25 years.

Deputy Washington County State's Attorney Charles Strong did not make a sentence recommendation Monday, and said he would leave it up to Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone to decide.

After Barnett said his injuries helped him, Boone asked the man to repeat himself.

"It helped you in the long run?" Boone asked.

"Yes," Barnett said.

Boone then asked Barnett several times if anyone forced his testimony or offered any incentives for him to testify on Banzhoff's behalf. Barnett said no one had, and "I can explain."

Barnett told Boone that during surgery to repair the damage done by the sword, doctors uncovered a medical condition of which Barnett said he had not been aware.

Although he did not specify the condition, Barnett said "that would have killed me two years down the road."

In a preliminary hearing on Sept. 16 in Washington County District Court, Hagerstown Police Detective Steven Hoover testified that three people saw Banzhoff retrieve a sword with a 29 1/2-inch blade during an argument at Banzhoff's and Barnett's apartment.

Hoover said the witnesses told police they saw Banzhoff lunge at his brother-in-law with the sword. Barnett sustained a single puncture wound to his side and spent a week in Washington County Hospital, police said.

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