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Judge to Allow Suspect in Mesa Stabbings to Deploy with Marines Unit

Preliminary hearing is continued to July for three men facing charges in the stabbings of two others after a neighborhood party

All three suspects in the April stabbings of two men after a Mesa neighborhood party appeared in court Monday morning as Judge Clifford Anderson continued their preliminary hearing to July.

The victims — two men, ages 40 and 23 — were sent to the hospital with multiple stab wounds after a fight at an April 13 party on Del Mar Avenue. Santa Barbara police say the two victims were involved in an argument with people at the party and it escalated to a physical fight.

Sean Crane and Michael Hardy have been charged with attempted murder, and Eddie Mesa Jr. has been charged with accessory after the fact connected to Crane’s alleged stabbing of the 40-year-old victim, who spent 16 days in the hospital with life-threatening injuries before being released.

Crane and Hardy remain in custody at the County Jail and appeared in court Monday wearing orange and red jumpsuits and shackles, respectively, but Mesa was released on bail shortly after the arrest. All three suspects are in their early 20s.

Mesa is a lance corporal with the U.S. Marines who returned from a seven-month tour of Afghanistan last May, and his defense attorney Bob Sanger successfully argued for him to deploy with his unit with the promise to return for the mid-July preliminary hearing.

Sanger can appear on Mesa’s behalf for any status-type hearings before that, Anderson agreed. Mesa’s bail conditions stipulated that he couldn’t leave the country, and Deputy District Attorney Ali Neuffer objected to him being allowed to leave given the seriousness of the charges and his ability to get back from Afghanistan for future court dates.

Sanger said Mesa is an honorable Marine who has served in Korea and Afghanistan, has no criminal record and would never allow a warrant to be issued for him that could compromise his military career.

In his last tour, one of his main jobs was to find and dismantle improvised explosive devices laid by insurgents, which he and his team mostly found with metal detectors on foot.

Mesa is not implicated in the stabbings themselves, but accessory after the fact in related to Crane’s alleged crime. He wore his uniform to recent court hearings.

Sanger said Mesa’s commanding officer wants him to deploy with the unit and will help make sure he gets back for court dates.

“It seems unreasonable not to give him the respect he deserves,” Sanger said.

Anderson agreed and said Mesa should start working on arranging military or civilian transportation back to Santa Barbara for the preliminary hearing. He also changed the conditions for Mesa’s bail, which stipulated that he could not leave the country.

Defense attorneys Doug Hays, representing Crane, and public defender Jeff Chambliss, representing Hardy, again argued against allowing video or photographs to be taken in the courtroom of the suspects, since witness interviews are ongoing.

After the hearing, Hays told reporters that, because of alcohol and drugs at the Friday night party, “there’s a lot of confusion as to what whoever was there saw,” adding that it’s still a developing case.

The party itself was a birthday celebration for Brittany Weiler, his former client who pleaded no contest to accessory to murder in the April 15, 2010, stabbing death of Robert “Bobby” Simpson at Arroyo Burro Beach.

She has not been implicated in the Del Mar Avenue stabbings, which occurred two years almost to the day after Simpson’s fatal stabbing.

Weiler, 19 at the time, drove the car that alleged murderer Adrian Robles and two others rode away in after Simpson was fatally stabbed. Robles has pleaded not guilty, and one of the other passengers was a witness for the prosecution in Robles’ preliminary hearing. The trial for Robles’ murder charge has been postponed multiple times.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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