ENGLEWOOD, N.J. -- A Salvadoran immigrant charged with stabbing his housemate in the heart, nearly killing him, got one more chance to accept a plea deal on Monday.
Jose W. Hernandez-Cerrito was supposed to discuss the six-year prison sentence offered by prosecutors in return for his guilty plea and then respond. However, defense attorney John Carbone told a judge in Hackensack that neither he nor his client realized that Hernandez-Cerrito's father was out of the country for an extended annual holiday visit home.
He asked for more time.
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Danielle Grootenboer had reduced the deal from an original nine-year offer.
The decision is still tough, Carbone told Daily Voice. Both men had knives, allowing a self-defense claim because "it could have gone either way,” he said.
He also claimed that Hernandez-Cerrito was provoked because the housemate was sending his wife explicit photographs on his phone.
Superior Court Judge Margaret M. Foti told both sides to return Jan. 11 with an answer to the plea offer.
She also set a March 7 trial date in case it falls through.
Englewood police arrested Hernandez-Cerrito at a bus stop in August 2014 after they called him on his cellphone. They'd found his roommate stabbed and bleeding profusely a short time earlier.
Police officers and EMTs were credited with saving the man’s life by slowing the bleeding enough to get him to the Hackensack University Medical Center trauma unit in time.
If convicted at a trial of attempted murder, she said, Hernandez-Cerrito could get 10 to 20 years.
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