The man who was arrested for fatally stabbing a 25-year-old Yonkers man outside the Playwright Tavern in Times Square last weekend was released after a grand jury believed his claims that he was acting in self-defense. Atdhe Gashi, 22, cried in relief when he was cleared of all charges after a hearing in which his lawyer explained what apparently led to the violent confrontation.

Gashi and victim Elliott Paulino, 25, were at the West 49th Street pub late Friday (August 20) to early Saturday; according to the Daily News:

Defense lawyer Robert Brown said the brawl began when one thug, who may have been a member of a gang known as the Stillwell Boys, punched Gashi without provocation at a private birthday party in the bar. Bouncers then tossed Gashi and the group outside.

As Gashi, also of Yonkers, waited for his girlfriend, the belligerent band encountered him again and the harassment turned violent, Brown said.

"He gets cold-cocked again," the lawyer said. Then, Paulino was "on top of my client, striking him" as others also struck at him. "It's Times Square, every inch of it is on video," Brown said of proof in the case.

Gashi pulled a Leatherman knife he uses at his Wall Street job to open packages and stabbed Paulino, Brown said.

Brown said, "It's a freakish thing to kill someone with such a small knife. He had no intention of killing. He's a computer geek. He's never been in trouble before." If the grand jury hadn't cleared him, Gashi would have faced second-degree murder charges, which have a maximum prison term of 25 years to life.