A woman charged with the murder of an Afghan war veteran had a lucky break Thursday, hitting a plea deal that got her released on time after Manhattan prosecutors claimed they could not prove her case.
Mary Saunders, 41, pleaded guilty to a downgraded charge of second-degree assault for her role in the 2018 Harlem stabbing of Hason Correa.
At the time, authorities claimed Saunders was trying to hold the 35-year-old married father when her two brothers repeatedly stabbed him in front of his father, Wesley Correa.
But on Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Dafna Yoran said Saunders only kicked and tried to punch the victim and that they “did not appear to have done any harm.”
One of her brothers, James Saunders, pulled a knife and stabbed Correa nine times without Mary’s knowledge, prosecutors said.
“People don’t think we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mary Saunders knew her brother had a knife or that she shared an intent to kill Hason Correa,” Yoran told the judge.
Prosecutors said the Oct. 19, 2018 brawl began after Mary Saunders heard the Correas, her neighbors at the time, beat up her family friend with a glass bottle.
Mary, James, her brother Christopher Saunders, and sidekick James Stewart confronted the Correas at the apartment building, and the fight then spread down the middle of West 152nd Street.
According to prosecutors, Mary Hason kicked once and attempted to punch him four times – while her brother James allegedly stabbed the vet, who later collapsed and died.
“The evidence shows that Ms Saunders’ presence was not a decisive factor in Mr Correa’s fatal injuries,” Yoran said.
Saunders surrendered after the stabbing and was held without bail for 14 months on second-degree murder and gang assault charges.
She was the only one of the four defendants to be released from prison in 2019 after a Manhattan judge slashed her $250,000 bail because it was her first arrest and because she has children.
On Thursday, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Gregory Carro sentenced Mary to a year in prison under the terms of the plea deal. However, having already spent 14 months behind bars, she does not have to serve another sentence.
Prosecutors noted that Hason Correa’s mother, Madeline Brame, “disagrees with this injunction.”
The victim’s mother “is opposed and believes that Ms Saunders should be prosecuted for murder … and remanded in custody,” Yoran said.
Yoran said she told Brame the DA’s office was still making progress in prosecuting Christopher and James Saunders for murder.
The brothers, who went into hiding for almost a year after the stabbing, are both currently being held without bail.
Stewart – who has been in prison for four years – pleaded guilty to attempted gang assault on Thursday and is due to be sentenced to seven years in prison on June 29 under a deal with prosecutors.
Prosecutors said that while the 34-year-old was involved in the fight, he was not involved in the brawl when James Saunders allegedly stabbed Hason Correa. Saunders is also said to have stabbed Wesley Correa more than 10 times.
“Travis Stewart was not a significant contributor to the fatal injuries. He did not hit Hason Correa or hold him down while James Saunders stabbed him,” prosecutors said.
During Thursday’s hearing, Mary Saunders told the judge: “On October 19 an unfortunate tragedy occurred which not only took the life of a young man but devastated so many others.
“It has left a cloud on various families and at this point all I can do is hope that those clouds will clear and mend whatever is broken.”
Her attorney, Laura Stasior, said: “After a thorough examination of the evidence, it was immediately clear that Mary Saunders was overcharged in the original indictment by the previous government.”
“MS. Saunders, who had no criminal convictions prior to this case, has already served over a year in the pretrial at Rikers Island and this outcome is consistent with her involvement in the incident and will allow her to regain her life as a beloved mother and valued member of their community,” Stasior said in a statement.
Stewart’s attorney, Toni Messina, told the Post she thinks her client should have been offered a milder plea deal since “he just hit someone.”
“It happened spontaneously, this fight where the man who died and his father were the actors who initiated it,” Messina said. “People dragged in all these people who happened to be around, and my client has been in prison for four years.”
Aadditional reporting by Steven Hirsch
https://nypost.com/2022/05/19/woman-charged-in-war-vets-murder-pleas-for-time-served/ Woman charged with time served in war veteran’s murder petition