A 32-year-old city man admitted to stabbing his neighbor to death after a verbal dispute escalated to a physical fight.
Henry J. Rivera pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter on Wednesday. He was initially charged with murder. Under the plea deal, Rivera will receive 10 years in state prison with 85 percent of the sentence to be served before parole eligibility.
On June 22, 2020, Rivera stabbed 52-year-old Arthur Clauser of Paterson to death outside of 24 Ward Street.
Rivera said he was sitting outside after midnight in front of his apartment building talking to a woman. His neighbor, Clauser, came up to both of them. Clauser made some remarks to the woman. Rivera found the remarks to be offensive.
Rivera got into a verbal argument with Clauser in front of the stairs leading to his apartment. Clauser threw a bicycle at Rivera. The bicycle struck Rivera in the face and upper chest, he said in court.
Rivera, angry and upset, engaged Clauser in a physical fight in front of the house. He pulled out a knife and plunged it deep in the left upper chest of Clauser.
Clauser died as a result of the stab wound.
Rivera admitted by introducing a knife in a physical fight he escalated the situation to the point he was using deadly force. He admitted he acted “recklessly” and with “extreme indifference” to the value of human life.
Rivera surrendered to police the day of the incident. While waiting for his day in court at the Passaic County Jail, he committed another act of violence.
On March 25, 2021, Rivera and six others allegedly attacked a person inside the Passaic County Jail. He tackled the victim to the ground. And the others punched and kicked the victim.
Rivera said the man they attacked had struck another inmate and broke his jaw.
“So, this basically was a retaliation assault on him?” asked Passaic County judge Marilyn Clark.
“Basically, yes,” answered Rivera.
Rivera intended to beat the victim, but he got trapped under a table after the tackle and missed his shot.
Rivera pleaded guilty to aggravated assault for the jail incident. He will get a five-year sentence for the offense, but it will run concurrently with his 10-year sentence. He will ultimately spend little over eight years in state prison.
Rivera said he went up to the 8th grade in school.
Rivera is scheduled to be sentenced on July 8 at 11:30 a.m.