By NAKIA COPELAND & STEPHANIE BERZON
The ex-con had no intent to kill a former martial arts instructor over a dogfight at the Prospect Heights bar, but used a knife in fear, said the defendant’s lawyer in the closing statement on Tuesday.
Daniel Pagan, 36, stabbed Chai Eun Hillmann, 41, twice in front of the Branded Saloon in September 2010.
The dispute began over two small dogs, one tied too closely to the other inside of the western-and-country saloon. Things quickly escalated after an argument of whose dog could win in a fight, showed testimony in Brooklyn Supreme Court.
Hillmann, the bartender and a part-time actor, allegedly confronted Pagan’s wife Yvonne when the dogs’ leashes entangled and a fatal fight ensued. Two different versions of the events emerged in closing statements,
“Mr. Pagan saw Mr. Hillman put his hand on his wife and he got upset,” said the defendant’s lawyer.
The men began tossing each other around and musician Daniel Hultquist, dropped his guitar and attempted to break up the feud, but was stabbed in the neck
Pagan also stabbed the guitarist out of fear, the defense lawyer said.
However the closing statement by the prosecutor painted a vastly different picture. The prosecutor argued that after stabbing the guitarist Pagan, walking away, taunted an intoxicated Hillman as “a ninja. The two then ended up in the street in front of the bar, where Hillmann was stabbed.
“He was in fear because he knew that Mr. Hillmann was a martial arts specialist,” said Pagan’s lawyer.
“It doesn’t make sense that he did it somewhere where he could be easily recognized if he was intending to kill – two blocks away from his house.”
Records show Pagan was convicted of manslaughter in 1991 after shooting a man dead in Brooklyn. He faced up to 15 years in prison, but was released in 2000.
The defendant’s lawyer contended that the witnesses who testified were “friendly with Mr. Hillman and are testifying in a way that probably didn’t happen.”
The video also showed Pagan punching Hillmann in the face outside of the bar and then slashing him in his chest with Pagan’s wife trying to restrain her husband.
“When he slid the knife into Hillmann all the way to the handle, his intent was to cause the death of Hillman and his intent was to cause serious injuries to Mr. Hultquist when he slashed him,” concluded the prosecutor.
“It’s an argument between two men at a bar,” said defendant’s lawyer.
Photo: Stab victim Chai Eun Hillman