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Hackensack woman acted in self-defense in stabbing friend, jurors find

Photo Credit: CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter Mary K. Miraglia

EXCLUSIVE REPORT: A jury in Hackensack found that a city woman acted in self-defense when she stabbed a former female friend who burst into her South Hackensack apartment to dispute a hospital bill for an emergency room visit.

Defense attorney Ian Silvera told jurors that Nilajah Sumter was frightened when the woman confronted her in December 2013.

She grabbed the knife out of fear and left the woman with superficial chest and hand wounds, he said.

The incident began when Sumter called the woman to tell her about the emergency room bill following a crash a few weeks earlier. Both were driving in a van full of furniture to a hotel where the woman was planning to stay when they hit a barricade in the road, sending Sumter to the hospital with a back injury.

Although Sumter said she wasn’t feeling well and asked her to come by another time, the woman showed up with her boyfriend, anyway.

The 5-foot, 105 pound Sumter said she asked her to leave but the woman — a good four to five inches taller and some 30 to 40 pounds heavier — forced open the door.

After the stabbing, she said, the woman smashed two windows of her apartment and threw a marble block through the window of her car.

Then she left and went to the police station, leaving her boyfriend behind to keep watch on Sumter, before finally ending up at Hackensack University Medical Center.

Sumter told jurors during the six-day trial that she was terrified and didn’t know what to think when the woman confronted her.

She and Silvera smiled broadly and exchanged a quick embrace on Friday after the jury pronounced her not guilty on four counts — two of assaulting the woman and two weapons offenses — after an hour of deliberations.

STORY / PHOTO: CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter Mary K. Miraglia

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