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Man who said he bit ear in self-defense gets probation

WAILUKU — A man who said he was defending himself when he bit another man’s ear has been placed on four years’ probation.

Bruce Ortiz, 35, of Wailuku said he felt “I’m not guilty of the charges.”

He had pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of second-degree unauthorized entry into a dwelling and second-degree assault of the other man on Jan. 27, 2018, at a residence on Piihana Road in Wailuku.

At Ortiz’s sentencing Tuesday, his attorney, Matthew Padgett, said alcohol was a factor in the case.

“Both parties were intoxicated,” he said.

He said the other man picked up a hammer first. He and Ortiz gave different accounts of what happened, Padgett said.

In another case, Ortiz pleaded no contest to resisting arrest on Oct. 13. A charge of first-degree assault on a law enforcement officer was dismissed.

That day, his mother had called police to get help for Ortiz “because he was agitated and scared,” said Deputy Public Defender Jeffrey Wolfenbarger. He said some officers mistakenly thought it was a domestic dispute.

“I think he should have been treated more like a patient at that point than a criminal,” Wolfenbarger said. “I think everything escalated.”

Ortiz, who appeared in court in a wheelchair, said, “I feel I shouldn’t be punished for crimes I didn’t commit. Based on the evidence that’s provided, I don’t see how I’m guilty.”

“You can have your beliefs, but you accepted the responsibility,” 2nd Circuit Judge Peter Cahill told Ortiz.

Cahill said he wasn’t sure that the call from Ortiz’s mother should have been handled as a medical case.

“There’s a split-second decision that has to be made,” Cahill said. “The bottom line is he got arrested. Nothing else happened. I’m not going to fault anybody.”

While following a plea agreement between the defense and prosecution in sentencing Ortiz, Cahill said, “I do have some concerns.”

He noted that Ortiz has prior assault convictions and was being sentenced for cases that occurred after Ortiz had back surgery for a work-related injury in 2015.

The judge asked Ortiz, “Did you bite the guy’s ear?”

“Yes,” Ortiz replied. “I didn’t mean to bite it off.”

“My only defense was to bite,” Ortiz said. “If he tries to kill someone with a hammer, he deserves it. That’s my only defense I had was to bite. The guy’s swinging a hammer at me at my head. You can kill somebody if you swing the hammer at my head. He intentionally tried to kill me.”

Ortiz was given credit for nine days he previously spent in jail. He was ordered not to consume alcohol or illegal drugs and to stay away from people using illegal drugs. He also was ordered to complete anger management treatment.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.

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