Cortland man may accept plea deal in fatal stabbing

CORTLAND, N.Y. — A city man accused of stabbing Damian S. Grant to death in August is expected to decide on whether or not to accept a plea deal this morning in Cortland County Court—a deal outlined in a plea agreement document that includes details of the stab wound that pierced Grant’s heart.

District Attorney Patrick Perfetti is offering Andrew J. Pilcher, 32, of 6 Main St, four to 12 years in state prison in exchange for pleading guilty to second-degree manslaughter.

Pilcher would likely respond by today’s court hearing, Perfetti said in an interview last week. Pilcher must respond by Friday, according to the plea agreement.

Pilcher was indicted on charges of first-degree manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter, and tampering with physical evidence, all felonies, as well as fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, a misdemeanor, in Grant’s death and faces a potential sentence of up to 25 years in prison.

Pilcher told police he defended himself during a fight with Grant, according to court documents. He also previously stated he used a household key to stab Grant.

But city police Sgt. Daniel Johnson wrote in a felony complaint that Pilcher used a folding-style knife to "stab the torso of Damian S. Grant, one time, resulting in death.”

Assistant District Attorney Christopher Simser, Sr. wrote in the plea offer dated Feb. 5, “The knife entered Mr. Grant and struck his diaphragm and liver before piercing his heart...At the decedent’s autopsy it was discovered the heart had been punctured to the extent that over two (2) liters of blood had gushed into the decedent’s abdominal cavity.”

Pilcher's Plea Deal:

After reviewing the description of the wound in the offered plea agreement, Dr. Ian Dickey, a local orthopedic surgeon and Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada, said it is unlikely the stab wound was caused by an act of self-defense.

If a person was defending themselves against an unarmed assailant, they would likely slash with a knife from top to bottom or side to side, not stab upwards, Dickey said.

“You’d be slashing at the assailant to try to get them to go away from you,” he said. “Instead, the wound that was inflicted requires an upward trajectory and that upward trajectory would have required really leaning into it to achieve the injury.”

A house key could not have caused the stab wound, Dickey said.

Pilcher told police he was defending himself during a fight with Grant when he stabbed him, but Perfetti noted last week the law requires a person to run from an attacker, if possible, before attempting to kill them. In the plea agreement, Simser writes, “The defendant had ample opportunity to retreat to his apartment, located mere feet from the scene of the altercation, but chose not to do so.”

Perfetti emphasized last week Pilcher did not try to escape the man he says was attacking him. “You cannot resort to the use of deadly physical force in self-defense if you can retreat safely,” Perfetti said.

The plea agreement also notes Grant was unarmed and accompanied only by his girlfriend, while Pilcher had a knife and two other men with him, as well as his girlfriend.

Grant’s girlfriend told police the incident began with an argument over a cigarette, court documents note.

“This was a senseless act of violence that left another dead,” Simser wrote. “This offer is made in recognition of the defendant’s lack of any prior criminal record, and of the equities presented for this defendant by his attorney.”

Pilcher was in jail on $100,000 cash or $200,000 bond as of this morning.