Robert Squillante, who fled after stabbing a man at a Payson bar a year ago, will spend three years in prison as a result of a plea agreement.
"It was basically a bar fight with witnesses who had conflicting testimony," Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores said.
Squillante pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted misconduct with weapons for which he was sentenced to two years, and a probation violation which added another year to his sentence.
Charles Packer, 48, was stabbed in the parking lot of the Buffalo Bar and Grill after the two men had an argument. Squillante left the scene and continued to evade police.
Police identified the stabber as Squillante from a tip and motor vehicle records, Payson Police Det. Matt Van Camp said.
Squillante was already on probation for an incident in which he held a person hostage at knife point in Star Valley a year prior.
After the stabbing, Squillante fled to Scottsdale and then planned move up to Coconino County. Valley police arrested Squillante when he went into a probation office trying to arrange a probation transfer.
After being sent to the Globe jail, Squillante posted bond and fled again.
Payson police, with the assistance of law enforcement agencies throughout Arizona and California, caught up with Squillante in the Los Angeles area.
A grand jury indicted him in September for assault and attempted murder, but further investigation revealed that the victim's account of a random, unprovoked stabbing was not what occurred.
Packer said he was walking into the bar as Squillante was being thrown out for being belligerent toward an employee.
"(Squillante) was walking past the victim and without any words to the victim, stabbed him in the chest and kept walking," Van Camp told the Roundup in July.
As the Gila County Attorney's Office investigated the incident, they found that accounts of what happened varied and some of the witnesses were unreliable.
"In our interviews it turned out that the victim threw the first punch," Flores said. "Some witnesses said Squillante was beat up pretty badly before stabbing (Packer). It became more of a self-defense issue."
Packer also has a police record, according to the county attorney.
"(Packer) has four prior felonies," Flores said."The testimony of the victim could be impeached by his own prior history."
According to court records, Packer's past includes charges of fighting, resisting arrest, threatening and intimidating and aggravated DUI.
A limousine driver who witnessed the incident contradicted Packer's account. The witness said Packer hit Squillante in the face so hard he fell back onto the ground before the stabbing occurred.
"This didn't happen innocently where (Packer's) just out there and he gets stabbed," the witness said. "That's not what happened. There is a difference between self-defense and just coming up and stabbing somebody unprovoked. I told five or six different officers what I saw and gave a written statement."
"When you have a bar fight," Flores said, "many of the witnesses have been drinking and their memories may be lacking and their stories conflict."
According to court records, Packer has a pending civil lawsuit against Squillante and the Buffalo Bar and Grill.