NEWPORT CITY – Cristopher Smith, the 27-year-old man who pulled a knife on a local news reporter, entered a guilty plea Friday to a felony charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and a misdemeanor charge of engaging in a prohibited act. The state dismissed a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.
Smith, who appeared in court in chains and shackles, will have to wait a bit longer to hear his fate. Until then, he is lodged at Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield.
Last August, the victim, Jennifer Cleveland of The Record, was traveling on the Airport Road in Coventry when she saw Smith standing in the road. Cleveland stopped to check on Smith who asked for a ride to his car parked near the bridge on the Coventry Station Road. Cleveland told police she was uneasy about giving Smith a ride, but he said it was okay, which she felt meant that he would not harm her.
As Cleveland and Smith traveled down the road, Smith asked Cleveland to stop the car and started to dig in his pocket. When some tobacco and a corncob pipe fell out, Cleveland asked Smith about the items, to which he replied they were his smokes.
Smith then pointed a knife at Cleveland and told her to take off her clothes. Cleveland said no and Smith made the order two more times to which she gave the same answer.
Cleveland told Smith he was messing with the wrong woman to which Smith replied, “Oh, yeah?”
Cleveland grabbed Smith’s wrist with her right hand and used her left thumb to push the knife blade back, causing the blade to break off. Cleveland threw the blade out of the car window and ran towards a house where she called police.
Court records state that Smith went to the state barracks in Derby to turn himself in for the assault.
Judge Robert Bent ordered a competency evaluation for the defendant, who was said to be developmentally disabled. Following the evaluation, the state and Smith's attorney stipulated that Smith was competent to stand trial.
In attempting to establish whether or not the defendant had a defense of diminished capacity, Attorney Miller made an attempt to secure his mental health records from Northeast Kingdom Human Services, according to the court docket sheet. NEKHS fought the subpoenas for the records, but in the midst of that dispute, Smith decided to change his plea.
Smith will be sentenced following a pre-sentence investigation by the Department of Corrections.