South Lake Tahoe sword-attack suspect pleads not guilty

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE - In court for his Monday arraignment, Steve Wasserman recited his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity on charges related to his alleged attack on his ex-girlfriend with a 2-foot-long sword.

From attempted murder to endangering a child, Wasserman pleaded not guilty as El Dorado County Superior Court Presiding Judge Suzanne Kingsbury read the three felonies and two misdemeanors.

Wasserman provided two pleas: not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity.

The dual pleas mean if Wasserman is convicted, another trial would take place to determine whether he was insane at the time of the crimes.

A trial was scheduled for March 7. A hearing on the progress of the case was scheduled for Feb. 27.

Susan Rizk, Wasserman's ex-girlfriend severely injured in the Oct. 25 attack, remains at Washoe Medical Center in Reno. Family members hope she will be released sometime this week. The casts on her wrists are off and she is walking daily.

Sister Diane Watson said Rizk, 32, is on a "full-liquid diet and her digestive system seems to be handling it OK."

Wasserman waived his right to a preliminary hearing, a proceeding when witnesses and evidence are introduced to a judge who makes a determination of whether there is enough cause to move forward with a case.

Defense attorney Lori London said she "felt there was little to be gained" by having a preliminary hearing.

Next is a Dec. 30 hearing when the court will assign two experts - one for the defense and the other for the prosecution - who will evaluate the mental capacity of Wasserman.

London was asked if she believes the case will make it to trial.

"As of this moment yes I do," she said.

Wasserman is charged with three felonies: attempted murder, aggravated mayhem and residential burglary. The attempted murder and residential burglary charges carry special allegations involving great bodily injury and the use of a dangerous weapon.

The mayhem charge also included the special allegation of use of a deadly weapon.

He's also charged with two misdemeanors of endangering a child and violating a restraining order. The maximum sentence for all of the felonies is life in prison.

Yet if Wasserman is found guilty of the crimes but determined insane when he did it, he would be sentenced to the care of a mental health facility until he's deemed safe to re-enter society.


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