On Friday the 13th in January 2017, local DJ Miguel Torres was at home in his East Austin apartment waiting for two people to stop by.
The woman with whom he had recently ended a relationship that lasted over a year was going to collect her belongings. Separately, Torres’ friend had planned to pick him up to go to a music venue.
But when Torres answered a knock at his door that evening, the visitor was neither of the people he was expecting. A 6-foot man in black wearing a ski mask began swinging a samurai sword at Torres before pulling out a dagger and stabbing him in the back.
During the assault, the man’s mask slid off and revealed that the attacker was local bar owner and Torres’ friend and business associate, Shusaku Shiroyama.
Shiroyama, who also goes by the pseudonym Charlie Valentine, is on trial this week facing felony charges in connection to the attack, which resulted in Torres getting 46 stitches to his hands, elbow and back.
Prosecutors finished presenting evidence Tuesday, and the trial is expected to wrap up this week.
Lawyers for the defense admit Shiroyama was the man behind the mask, but say the attack was a form of vigilante justice on behalf of a woman who had moved in with him days before the incident and said she had left an abusive relationship with Torres. The woman, Nathalie Walsh, testified Shiroyama was angry after she detailed the many injuries she suffered at the hands of Torres, including black eyes, a broken tooth and stomach pains from a punch that forced her to sleep on her back for two weeks.
Walsh said she was unaware of Shiroyama’s intentions and was sleeping at his apartment at the time of the incident.
“I didn’t think in a million years that would be the result of this,” she said.
Defense lawyer Matthew Shrum told the jury Shiroyama’s actions were “misguided, but rooted in good intentions.”
Shiroyama “was trying to spook him with some scary props. He was trying to protect her,” he said.
Shiroyama was diagnosed as bipolar after the incident, Shrum told state District Judge Julie Kocurek, who excluded testimony on the diagnosis until the trial’s punishment phase.
Torres testified he never hit Walsh, responding “no” when Shrum asked him.
Torres, 33, is a popular photographer and DJ who spins music under the stage name “ulovei.” He made posts on his social media accounts within hours of the attack after leaving a hospital and going to a bar.
Torres said he became friends with Shiroyama after working several gigs at Shiroyama’s bar, Moloko. The two were part of a group that would stay late and drink, Torres said.
After the incident, the other owners of Moloko removed Shiroyama as a partner. The bar has since closed.
Torres, who served in the Marines, said the sword Shiroyama used was a “cheap, flea-market kind” that didn’t do much damage. He said he stopped the onslaught by grabbing the blade with both hands. During the struggle, he said Shiroyama pulled out a dagger and stabbed him in the back, dropping Torres to his knees. He testified Shiroyama was yelling for him to return Walsh’s belongings. Photos of his apartment show circular drops of blood and a broken wall clock.
Acknowledging his client’s involvement in the attack, Shrum shifted his focus to the sentence Shiroyama faces for burglary of a habitation with intent to commit a felony and implored the jury to go lightly. Shiroyama faces a maximum sentence of 99 years in prison.
“Don’t destroy another life,” Shrum told the jury. “Don’t send him away.”
Shiroyama also is charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon — one for the attack on Torres and another in an unrelated December 2016 incident in which police say he pulled a gun on a Fasten driver. Prosecutors could bring up the latter charge in the punishment phase.