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Sat, Aug. 24

Deli owner agrees to plea deal in assault case

PRESCOTT – In an 11th-hour move Wednesday, Salvatore Frattalone of Uncle Sal's Deli in Prescott apparently escaped a lengthy prison term because of a plea agreement he entered into the day his trial on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon was set to begin.

Frattalone pleaded guilty to endangerment, said his attorney, Lee Holtry of Phoenix, "accepting responsibility" for the July 5, 2003, events in which he apparently stabbed his brother-in-law during a physical altercation that took place in Frattalone's Prescott home.

During the fight, County Attorney Ethan Wolfinger said, Frattalone picked up an 11-inch kitchen knife and "recklessly stabbed (the victim)" three times – once in the left upper quadrant of his torso, once in the right armpit and once (a slash) on one of his temples.

Wolfinger said the victim sustained a loss of blood, a perforated stomach and a nicked liver.

Originally, Prescott police officers booked Frattalone on charges of attempted first-degree murder. The grand jury indicted him on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The trial based on those charges was set to begin at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

At that time, Holtry and Wolfinger entered into discussions of a plea agreement.

They agreed on a charge of endangerment, to which, around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Frattalone pleaded guilty with an Alford plea (in reference to North Carolina vs. Alford), which Holtry called "somewhat guilty, somewhat no contest."

Judge David Mackey explained that a conviction on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon could lead to as many as 15 years of prison time.

After Mackey accepted Frattalone's plea agreement, Holtry said that the defense would have argued that Frattalone was acting in self-defense when he used the knife on the victim.

Frattalone confirmed that he entered into a plea agreement partly because he felt there was a substantial likelihood that he'd be convicted had the trial commenced. He added he was also "very worried" about his family, which Holtry said includes three young children.

Although Wolfinger said "the day of the trial is pretty late in the game" for the defense to go for a plea agreement, he added that "I think it achieves justice."

Holty said the defense went for the plea agreement because charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon "are very serious" and convictions on those charges carry maximum prison sentences.

Mackey said endangerment, which Frattalone pleaded guilty to, is a class six, undesignated felony. A punishment for such an offense could include a presumptive one-year prison term, which could decrease to one-third a year with mitigating circumstances and two years with aggravating circumstances.

Instead of prison time, Mackey said, Frattalone could face three years probation, which may or may not include a year in Yavapai County Jail.

If Mackey sentences Frattalone to probation and that goes well, the judge may be able to designate the felony as a misdemeanor.

"Nobody wanted to see Mr. Frattalone go to prison," Holtry said.

Holtry said Frattalone doesn't carry the "entire portion of responsibility" for the July 5, 2003, events and said, "It's my sincere hope that he gets probation."

Mackey set a pre-sentencing hearing for 1:30 p.m. July 30 and a judgment and sentencing hearing at 4 p.m. Aug. 2.

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