Construction worker who sucker-punched disabled NYC man inside elevator blames attack on diabetes — and could skirt jail time

A construction worker accused of pummeling a disabled man in a Manhattan building elevator is blaming the brutal attack on his diabetes — and could skirt jail time under a sweetheart plea deal, The Post has learned.

Andrew Caban, 49, claimed he was suffering from a hypoglycemic episode when he sucker-punched 61-year-old Richard Regen on Feb. 2, 2023 as the victim was heading to rehab for a stroke from two years earlier.

“I’ve suffered diabetes for a very long time from a very young age. I’ve had hypoglycemic episodes previously, and I’m so sorry this has happened,” Caban said in Manhattan Criminal Court on Monday. “I was reckless. There were no intentions at all — I had no intentions to harm him.”

Andrew Caban pleaded guilty to reckless assault in the third degree for sucker punching Richard Regen in an elevator. Steven Hirsch

Speaking to The Post after the hearing, Regen’s wife ripped the excuse as an example of the “Twinkie defense” — and said her husband has diabetes himself and has never acted the way Caban did in the elevator of the couple’s West 23rd Street building.

The attack was captured on the building surveillance cameras, showing Caban landing a knock-out blow and then casually walking out of the elevator, leaving Regen lying unconscious on the elevator floor.

Caban, who could have faced up to a year in jail, pleaded guilty to reckless assault in the third degree, a misdemeanor, as part of a deal with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office that could see him get off with just a slap on the wrist.

“He is a father of a daughter. He is genuinely remorseful for what he did and this is his first criminal offense,” Assistant District Attorney Daniel Robinson told Judge Michael Gaffney when probed about the offer.

The elevator attack was caught-on-camera by surveillance video obtained by The Post. Courtesy of Merson Law PLLC

The prosecutor acknowledged that Regen was left with “ongoing trauma, probably for the rest of his life,” during the attack, but still stood by the deal in which Caban would get time served and a restraining order to stay away from the victim.

His defense attorney Effie Blassberger claimed Caban suffered a “well documented” hypoglycemic episode and that the brazen attack would have never happened had his diabetes been in check during the encounter in the West 23rd Street elevator.

As he issued the half-hearted apology, Caban claimed his life “changed as much as Mr. Regen’s” — drawing scorn and shocked laughter from the victim’s relatives, who sat in the gallery.

“He’s a really good actor,” one of Regen’s family members quipped, shortly before Caban claimed he didn’t “fully recall” what happened during the attack due to his “condition.”

Regan was also in court — and his wife, Lili Regen, delivered an impact statement on his behalf.

“My husband has completely lost his independence, his cognitive skills, the stability of his health forever by the permanent damage caused by a human fist crushing his skull into his brain,” she said.

Caban said he doesn’t remember anything from the attack — and blamed it on his diabetes. Courtesy of Merson Law PLLC

“The shock and repercussions remain constantly and will never go away.”

Lili Regen told The Post outside the courtroom that her husband, a former journalist and screenwriter, has suffered from repeated seizures and has been hospitalized four times — including a 30-day stay — since the attack.

She called Caban’s diabetes excuse a “Twinkie defense,” a mocking term for a questionable legal defense.

Regen — who already struggled with a neurological disability after a stroke from two years prior — had to undergo brain surgery after the incident. Courtesy of Merson Law PLLC

Legal experts told The Post it’s common for seemingly dubious defenses to be argued in court, and they at times turn out to be legitimate. 

“In this case, people should not be so quick to say that his claimed reason for throwing the punch … his mental state and being in an altered state, even for a short while, is not legitimate and founded on accepted scientific principles,” said Robert Gottlieb, an attorney who has worked for decades in state and federal courts.

“Clearly, the prosecutors gave it serious thought.It’s not as if he is walking away without bearing [the] consequences of having committed a crime. He’s going to stand convicted.”

Gottlieb said he understands the Regens’ frustration — but acknowledged that there’s science to back up Caban’s claims. Research has shown that poor glycemic control can result in diabetes complications such as anger or depression.

Jeffrey Lichtman, a defense attorney who represented El Chapo and John Gotti Jr., said that Caban was using his diabetes as a “mitigation” — meaning, as a way to explain how and why he punched the victim, but not necessarily as a defense.

He noted that prosecutors could from the getgo have charged Caban with a Class D felony that would have carried a possible sentence of seven years behind bars, instead of a misdemeanor.

Lili and Richard Regen filed a lawsuit against Caban, his employer, the building owner and the building’s management company. Steven Hirsch

“I understand why the victim’s wife was saying it was a ‘Twinkie defense’ but the truth is, they just pleaded him to what he was charged with and agreed to time served,” Lichtman said. “It’s not a surprise at all in a first offense misdemeanor charge.”

The Regens filed a lawsuit against Caban and the construction company that employed him, M Daddio, Inc. and the building owner and management companies for unspecified damages.

Lawyers for Regen have said that he was hospitalized for eight days while he suffered a brain bleed, traumatic brain injury and seizures.

He later had to undergo brain surgery to repair his damaged skull, according to his wife.

When asked what it was like to see his attacker in court, Richard Regen replied to the question by recalling the elevator attack.

“I wanted to leave,” he said. “I wanted to just leave and the guy hit me. I was so mad, so mad. He wanted to hit me.”

The civil case is pending.

Caban’s next court date in the criminal case is May 31.