The Grand Island motorist who choked an Erie County sheriff's deputy in a harrowing attack one year ago pleaded guilty Friday to attempted murder. The motorist's female companion, who jumped into the fray, pleaded guilty to second-degree assault.
Sammy Abdellatif, 23, faces a sentence of 25 years to life in prison when County Judge Kenneth F. Case sentences him Oct. 24, the Erie County District Attorney's Office said.
Brittany Ashley-Graser, 22, faces up to seven years behind bars when Case sentences her on Oct. 31.
Abdellatif attacked Deputy Jason Clark during a traffic stop Aug. 24 on East River Road near Whitehaven Road on Grand Island. Abdellatif was choking Clark into unconsciousness until a passerby — Peter O'Brien of Grand Island — intervened. In time, another deputy arrived and subdued Abdellatif at gunpoint.
Abdellatif, Ashley-Graser and Clark had a history. Weeks earlier, Clark had stopped Ashley-Graser when she drove Abdellatif's car with a broken light. Because she refused to give her name or provide a driver's license, Clark had the car towed, sheriff officials said. They said Abdellatif soon after called Erie County dispatchers and threatened to kill the deputy. For that, he was charged with aggravated harassment on July 18, 2016.
Then on the night of Aug. 24, Clark had pulled over a car about 8:30 p.m. on Grand Island. Another vehicle passed by and one of the occupants shouted obscenities at him. Clark pursued the second vehicle and pulled it over. That's where he encountered Abdellatif.
As Clark questioned him, sheriff's officials said, Abdellatif rolled up the window with the deputy's arm inside the auto.
Clark broke the window to free himself, but Abdellatif sprung from his seat, and the assault began.
Sheriff Timothy B. Howard later explained that as Clark gained control over Abdellatif, Ashley-Graser jumped on the deputy's back. Then a pit bull burst from their car and was "aggressive toward the deputy," Howard said. Clark started to lose the struggle.
O’Brien was driving by, saw the fight and stopped to help Clark. The retired dock worker, 65 years old at the time, later downplayed his role in sparing the deputy from further injury.
Ashley-Graser, like Abdellatif, was initially charged with attempted murder. But she pleaded to a less serious charge. Her lawyer, Thomas Eoannou, later contradicted the sheriff's account by saying she jumped into the action only to free Abdellatif from being hurt by O'Brien.
“I’m no hero,” O’Brien told a News reporter last year. “Police officers are out there dealing with criminals every day. They’re the heroes.”