Oct. 11—A 22-year-old Scranton man on trial for charges he helped badly beat a 62-year-old bar patron testified Wednesday in his own defense he tried to protect himself from a knife the older man pulled.
During about an hour of testimony, Brandon Crusen sought to convince a Lackawanna County jury he shoved and kicked Michael Williams in self-defense early on Jan. 13 outside the Thirsty Elephant, 932 Wyoming Ave.
“If he didn’t pull the knife do you think you would have touched him that night?” asked his attorney, Christian Francis.
“No,” the defendant replied.
Police arrested Brandon Crusen and his brother, Dylan Crusen, for aggravated assault and related offenses.
Dylan Crusen, 28, punched Williams around his face about a dozen times. He pleaded guilty last week to aggravated assault and faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Lackawanna County Judge Andy Jarbola is presiding over Brandon Crusen’s trial.
Dr. David Deisher, a trauma surgeon at Geisinger Community Medical Center, attended to Williams when he arrived at the hospital and testified Wednesday he had broken bones in his ribcage, face and neck.
Blood vessels in his brain ruptured from head trauma and the attack bruised his lungs.
Williams was intubated for 11 days and was hospitalized for about a month before he was discharged, Deisher said under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Bo Loughney.
The violence came as Williams walked outside to smoke a cigarette. Dylan Crusen, out for a night of pool and bar food with his brother and friends, followed Williams outside to await a ride back home.
A security camera outside the bar captured the incident. Brandon Crusen said he tried to deescalate an argument between his brother and Williams.
Then Williams pulled out a knife, he testified. Brandon Crusen shoved Williams against a wall in response.
The footage showed Dylan Crusen punch Williams several times. Brandon Crusen kicked him once — something he acknowledged on the witness stand but with the added caveat he did not know if Williams still had his knife.
Jurors watched the security camera’s video several times while Brandon Crusen went through his testimony.
On the screen, Williams lay motionless on the pavement. Brandon Crusen bent down. He testified he picked up the knife. He took it with him when told by bar staff to leave.
Brandon Crusen testified he disposed of the blade by throwing it into a patch of woods near a football field on Putnam Street. He acknowledged that “wasn’t smart” during his testimony.
His father, Eric Crusen, later recovered the knife and turned it in to the city police, Eric Crusen testified.
Brandon Crusen testified the sight of the knife activated his “fight or flight” instinct. He fought.
Deputy District Attorney Sara Varela questioned if Williams — a much older and smaller man — might have felt the same instinct when confronted younger and larger men.
“Let me ask you this” she said on cross-examination. “Why wouldn’t he be in fear of his life?”
Francis said after the testimony concluded he planned to call one or two additional witnesses Thursday. Closing arguments will follow.
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