A Hoback man, now facing a felony charge for hitting his neighbor with a baseball bat, said Monday that he was defending himself.

Bret Sani, 59, appeared for his preliminary hearing Monday afternoon in Teton County Circuit Court after being arrested Jan. 20 for aggravated assault. Sani’s attorney Elisabeth Trefonas said there is more to the story than the Teton County Prosecutor’s Office is presenting.

“If someone is being violent you don’t think he has the right to defend himself?” Trefonas asked Teton County Sheriff’s Deputy Jess Stone, who was testifying.

Deputies agree that Sani wasn’t the only aggressor in the situation. After officers were called to the Hoback RV Park on Jan. 20 they ended up citing Ryan Stephens, 28, for destruction of property and battery.

The conflict started because of a loud party at an upstairs apartment. Music was blaring around 11 p.m. so Sani, who’s a property manager there, went upstairs to tell them to turn it down.

Stephens reportedly wouldn’t cooperate with Sani’s request.

“Mr. Stephens said after they had their disagreement upstairs about the music that he followed Mr. Sani downstairs,” Stone said from the witness stand. “Mr. Sani came out with a baseball hat in his hand and began to strike him with it.”

But Trefonas said Stephens lunged at her client and broke his apartment window and that’s why he defended himself with the bat.

“Mr. Stephens leapt over railings chasing him back to his apartment,” she said.

But deputies said Sani should have stopped hitting Stephens with the bat once Stephens put his hands up over his head.

“He said Mr. Stephens continued to come at him so he delivered a few more strikes with the bat,” Stone said. “He said Stephens was yelling and screaming and he demonstrated how Mr. Stephens was putting his hands on top of his head and that he hit him one more time on the head.”

Teton County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Clark Allan asked about Stephens’ injuries.

“He had a laceration on the top of his head and his hands were swollen up quite large and his forearm was starting to swell,” Stone said.

Stephens was transported to St. John’s Health for his injuries, and Sani was arrested.

Judge James Radda delayed sending the case to Teton County District Court because Allan and Trefonas made mention of a plea agreement. Allan said he believes they can have the case resolved in a week.

Trefonas said her client would be satisfied if the prosecutor’s office wanted to amend the charge to a misdemeanor.

Contact Emily Mieure at 732-7066 or courts@jhnewsandguide.com.

Emily Mieure covers criminal justice and emergency news. She also leads the News&Guide’s investigative efforts. She has reported for WDRB TV in Louisville, Ky., WFIE TV in Evansville, Ind., and WEIU TV in Charleston, Ill.

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