Jury convicts Gary man in machete attack
By Ruth Ann Krause Post-Tribune correspondent March 6, 2013 11:04PM
Updated: March 6, 2013 11:36PM
A Lake Superior Court jury convicted a Gary man of criminal recklessness in an attack that involved a caustic liquid and a machete.
Sylvester Smith, 63, an Air Force veteran who converted to the Rastafarian faith in the 1970s, faces six months to three years on the charge at his April 5 sentencing hearing before Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. The jury deliberated less than four hours. Smith was acquitted of attempted aggravated battery, a Class B felony punishable by a sentence of six to 20 years, and two counts of battery, Class C felonies punishable by two to eight years.
Smith, who receives disability benefits and has health issues, testified Wednesday that he felt threatened by the victim, Don Scott, when he showed up in mid-September while Smith was working in his garage.
Defense attorney Scott King elicited testimony that Smith became fearful of Scott, a larger and younger man, despite an initial meeting after Smith’s daughter had gone somewhere that he hadn’t given permission and “got jumped” by two girls. Smith first met Scott when he went to retrieve his daughter’s shoes.
“I just told him it would never happen again. We shook hands and I left,” Smith said.
On Sept. 13, 2010, Smith said he saw one of the girls involved in the altercation with his daughter walking away from his back porch, where a pitcher containing sun tea was broken. Two days later, the same girl showed up at his door and said something. About 20 minutes later, the girl, her sister and mother and 20 to 30 more children were at the door, according to Smith. Smith said he told the mother about the broken pitcher and what the woman’s daughter had said earlier. The mother told Smith he should bring his concerns to her, not confront her daughter. Shortly after Smith said he told her to leave his property, the group of children began throwing sticks at his home. A neighbor called police.
On Sept. 16, 2010, Smith said he was working in his garage trying to remove hardware from a sink with his back to the open overhead garage door when Scott showed up. Earlier, Smith said he looked for penetrating oil to loosen the fitting and had uncovered a jar of an unknown liquid that he said “smelled like fumes.” He set it aside as he worked on the sink.
As the two men discussed what Scott perceived as Smith disrespecting Scott’s wife and children, Smith said he recalled an earlier comment by Scott that Smith considered a gang reference. When Scott came toward him and poked him in the chest, Smith said he took two or three steps back. “I was scared,” Smith said, believing he was blocked in his garage.
Deputy prosecutor Angela Mattozzi challenged Smith on where the altercation took place. Smith said he grabbed the jar and flung the liquid at Scott, who turned his head. Smith said he then grabbed a machete and swung it at Smith, who had a wound on his shoulder.
Gary police Cpl. Jeff Tatum, who was working at the nearby Lew Wallace High School, saw Smith throw the liquid and swing the machete and arrested Smith.