A man accused of stabbing another concertgoer at a punk rock show at Northerly Island admitted he pulled a knife but said he did so in self-defense.
Thomas Christensen, 36, claimed Monday he was defending himself when he stabbed the other man in August of 2017 during the Dropkick Murphys concert at the Huntington Bank Pavilion. The alleged victim, a 31-year-old man, suffered stab wounds to his cheek and neck that left him with a broken jaw and lacerations that required stitches.
Christensen’s attorney, Steven Fine, moved for a mistrial last week when the alleged victim said he initially approached Christensen at the concert after hearing he was a violent white supremacist. The man claimed he wanted to tell Christensen that he’d been banned from some Chicago music venues.
While Fine claimed prosecutors elicited the testimony from a “prejudicial” witness, Judge William Hooks declined to strike the testimony on Christensen’s alleged background from the record and the motion was withdrawn. Despite the reason he gave for confronting Christensen, the alleged victim later showed the court his knuckles, which were tattooed with letters that spelled “SKINHEAD.” The tattoos were not explained in court.
Fine declined to comment on the claim that his client has ties to far-right groups. However, Christensen’s alleged far-right ties recently came to the fore while he was free on bail.
Earlier this year, he attended a protest against Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s decision to drop charges against actor Jussie Smollett. Christensen was seen at the rally wearing clothing associated with the Proud Boys, a far-right organization that has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and marching alongside Brien James, who the Anti-Defamation League describes as “a longtime Indiana white supremacist.” Officials with the Proud Boys have denied the designation as a hate group. Christensen previously declined to comment. James has said he no longer holds racist views.
During the trial, the alleged victim told Assistant State’s Attorney Andrew Yassan that after he confronted Christensen, he was stabbed twice. The man said another woman was also stabbed, and Chicago police initially reported that a woman suffered a cut to her chest, but she wasn’t listed as a victim in the case.
“He would not stop swinging the knife. I was pretty much just in shock,” the man testified. “ ... He tried to take my life.”
The man said a friend ultimately tackled Christensen, and the man admitted to kicking him in the ribs. Christensen was later treated for a fracture to his upper body.
During Fine’s cross-examination of the man, he admitted that he had three or four beers at the concert and had smoked marijuana.
On Monday, Christensen took the stand and contradicted the man’s account.
Christensen, who works for a real estate firm and previously taught preschool, said the alleged victim — who he had never met before — accosted him at the concert, saying, “I know who you are.” He told the court he was “frightened” when the larger man approached him again and acted aggressively. The man punched him in the face, Christensen testified.
He eventually told the man to “back the f--- up,” but the man swung at him again, so Christensen stabbed him, he testified. He said he plunged the knife into the man a second time after trying to run away and seeing him raise his fist again.
“I stabbed at him to make him stop,” said Christensen.
During closing arguments, Fine noted that some of the alleged victim’s friends had told investigators they saw him exchanging blows with Christensen, which went against the man’s claim that he hadn’t punched Christensen.
Prosecutors said the knife was unwarranted in the situation.
“You can’t bring a knife to a fistfight,” Yassan said.
One of the three charges lodged against Christensen was dismissed Monday but he still faces two other counts of aggravated battery.
Hooks will reach his verdict on Friday.