CANTON, N.Y. - A 26-year-old upstate New York man yesterday admitted mutilating another man, ending his trial as lawyers were preparing to pick a jury.

Harry Klages II pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree assault. As part of the plea deal, he will serve 38 years in prison.

Klages was ready to stand trial for first-degree attempted murder and six counts of first-degree assault in the January 2008 attack on 51-year-old Andrew Lesperance.

In court yesterday, Klages admitted plucking out Lesperance's right eye with his hands and mutilating his genitals with a knife. Klages also sliced open Lesperance's abdomen from his groin to just below his chest, said District Attorney Nicole Duve. Lesperance survived after a lengthy hospital stay.

"I have never encountered a case where one human being has been so callously cruel to another as this case," Duve said. "This case just screams torture."

The attack happened after a party at Klages's apartment in Massena, about 160 miles north of Syracuse on the U.S.-Canadian border. Police were called when an intoxicated Klages called his father to say that he had done something that "he wasn't very proud of."

Duve said that it appeared that Lesperance had met Klages that very night and had never before been to his apartment.

Klages offered no explanation for the attack. He had been drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana at the time of the attack, and possibly doing other drugs, Duve said.

"We will probably never know," the prosecutor said. "That's locked safely in his head."

Lawyers were prepared to begin selecting a jury in St. Lawrence County Court and were meeting in the judge's chambers on preliminary motions when the deal was struck, said Duve, who conferred with Lesperance by telephone before signing off on the plea.

"He is relieved to have it resolved," Duve said. "He is satisfied that Mr. Klages will be in prison for a very long time. It doesn't come close to making Mr. Lesperance whole, but it does begin the process of closure for him."

At the time of the attack, Klages was on five years' probation for a 2006 attempted-assault conviction for a bar stabbing in Ogdensburg and a similar conviction for attacking a man with a hammer in Potsdam.

Klages was previously sentenced to a four-year prison sentence for violating his probation by drinking alcohol on the night of the attack. *