Don’t be this guy….
Atienza Kali Student on Trial for Murder
The New York Times
Man Who Killed a Bouncer Is Called Heroic by His Lawyer
By SABRINA TAVERNISE
Published: October 26, 2004
A man versed in martial arts was trying to defend a friend when he drew a knife in a Lower East Side lounge and fatally stabbed a bouncer in an argument that began over a lighted cigarette, lawyers for the man said yesterday.
The man with the knife, Isaias Umali, a slight 32-year-old network administrator for an accounting firm, went on trial yesterday, charged with murdering Dana Blake early on the morning of April 13, 2003.
The death drew attention, in part, because it began over a cigarette shortly after the city’s new smoking ban took effect. It also involved Mr. Umali’s prowess in kali, a Filipino martial art that involves knives.
Lawyers for Mr. Umali, who is charged with second-degree murder, said during opening arguments yesterday that he approached Mr. Blake about 2:30 a.m. because the bouncer was choking Mr. Umali’s friend Jonathan Chan in a nightclub called Guernica on Avenue B. Mr. Chan and his friends had exchanged words with Mr. Blake, 6-foot-6 and 365 pounds, after Mr. Blake told them to put out a burning cigarette.
“Jonathan Chan was attacked and attacked viciously,” said Alan Lewis, a lawyer for Mr. Umali. He said Mr. Blake had his hands around Mr. Chan’s neck ” in a vise grip,” and had lifted Mr. Chan, who is 5-foot-10, off the floor. Mr. Lewis described a scene in which clubgoers were screaming for Mr. Blake to let him go.
Mr. Umali came to Mr. Chan’s defense with a six-inch folding blade, his lawyers said.
“When someone does what Isaias did, he saved his friend, he did the right thing,” Mr. Lewis said. “It wasn’t bad or criminal, it was heroic.”
Lawyers for Mr. Umali say that he stabbed Mr. Blake in the leg and did not intend to kill him. Prosecutors say he stabbed him with a strong thrust near the groin.
After the struggle, Mr. Umali ran out of the club, wrapped his knife in his jacket, threw it in a sewer drain in Chinatown, and made his way to an Upper East Side apartment of a friend, who is also his kali teacher, the friend, Allain Atienza, said testified yesterday.
Prosecutors, for their part, said Mr. Chan and Mr. Blake had struggled, but contended it had been an “every day incident,” typical of those between bouncers and belligerent customers. Mr. Umali, they said, had used a special kali move meant to inflict maximum harm .
“The move was a thrust, a twist and a pull,” said David Lauscher, an assistant district attorney.
Mr. Umali, he said, “was covered in blood” when he reached his friend’s apartment near 65th Street and Second Avenue, and “admitted to his friends that he stabbed” Mr. Blake.
Mr. Lewis characterized the stab as “a single poke to the leg,” and said that Mr. Umali, who has no criminal record, “did not stab Mr. Blake in the neck or repeatedly.” What is more, the martial art he studied was defensive, Mr. Lewis said.
Mr. Umali, who sat silently at the defense table in a gray suit yesterday, was not indifferent to Mr. Blake’s death, his lawyers argued, saying that he tried to kill himself after he learned Mr. Blake had died, something police investigators also said last year.
Mr. Chan suffered bruises on his neck, lawyers for Mr. Umali said. The district attorney’s office did not charge Mr. Chan, or his brother and sister, who were also involved in the scuffle.
Prosecutors built part of their case on the testimony of Mr. Atienza, who entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors. Mr. Atienza, whose apartment Mr. Umali fled to on the night of the stabbing, faced felony charges for throwing away his bloody clothes. Instead, he will be charged with a misdemeanor.
“He had some bloodstains on his pants,” said Mr. Atienza, who became so emotional at one point that the judge briefly stopped the proceedings so he could recover. “We just talked to him, trying to calm him down,” Mr. Atienza added. “He seemed very agitated.”
Prosecutors showed photographs of a large pool of blood on the floor of the club. Mr. Blake, whose artery was sliced open in his groin area, died in a hospital later that day.
Mr. Umali, who is 5-feet-7 and about 140 pounds, according to his lawyers, “tried to kill” a 6-foot-6 man “for no reason?” Mr. Lewis told the jury. “It makes no sense.”