Niagara Gazette

October 15, 2012

Lower charges sought in Casal case

By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — The suspect in a vicious attack on Falls boxer Nick Casal claims prosecutors have charged him with the wrong crime.

Now the defense attorney for Michael Vicki is asking a Niagara County Court judge to dismiss at least part of a grand jury indictment against his client.

Following a brief conference in her chambers Monday afternoon, Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas said Vicki's defense had asked her to "revisit" whether medical evidence given to the grand jury was "sufficient" to charge him with first-degree assault.

The grand jury indicted Vicki, 30, of Portland Street, Town of Niagara, on charges of first-degree assault and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon in a beating that left Casal with severe head injuries. Vicki has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Farkas said defense attorney James Faso argued that, based on medical records he had just received from prosecutors, his client should face a charge no greater than second-degree assault.

First Assistant District Attorney Doreen Hoffmann told the judge if the charge was lowered, it should not go below attempted first-degree assault.

Hoffmann also said she would attempt to expedite the results of testing on a DNA sample taken from Vicki. Vicki had agreed to give a DNA sample after a mid-September hearing on his case.

However, prosecutors, who have made a plea offer to Vicki, did not move ahead with the testing because they believed that Vicki might take the plea during Monday's proceedings. 

Neither side in the case has said what the plea offer is and Vicki, who did not speak at the hearing, has not indicated whether he will consider the offer.

Farkas had ordered Vicki to give the DNA sample so that investigators can determine if his blood was present at the scene where Casal was brutally beaten.

Detectives discovered a large quantity of blood at Vicki's home after the attack on Casal and Vicki, who admits he was there when Casal was beaten, has claimed he was defending himself and was also injured in the incident.

Vicki made the claim in a statement to police, with an attorney representing him. Faso has said he may seek to keep Vicki's statement out of a trial on the case.

Casal, a Welterweight boxer who had been scheduled to appear in June as part of a nationally televised boxing card on ESPN2, suffered severe injuries during the early morning altercation on May 12 at Vicki’s home. The fight card was subsequently canceled.

Casal’s father, Ray, said his son was attacked as he went to leave Vicki's home. The elder Casal said Vicki is the ex-boyfriend of his son's girlfriend.

Police said Casal was hit several times by an unknown object and knocked to the ground. Investigators said evidence at Vicki’s home indicated that Casal had lost a significant amount of blood.

No weapon has been recovered in the case and Vicki has told investigators he doesn’t remember what he hit Casal with. Vicki said he and Casal had an altercation after the boxer came to his home.

Vicki told investigators that Casal was the aggressor and he had no choice but to defend himself. He also insisted that he called police following the incident and he received medical treatment at a local hospital for injuries he suffered.

Investigators believe that Casal was knocked unconscious, but then regained consciousness and was driven from the crime scene to his home. Ray Casal said he learned of the attack hours after it happened and that his wife and a friend found Nick at his home, unconscious.

In addition to the gashes on his head, Casal suffered a chipped tooth and a severely swollen, but not broken, arm. Reports indicate that Casal was struck 15 times in the head and body.

Doctors have said that Casal sustained no brain damage and that they expect him to make a complete recovery.