By SEAN I. MILLS Staff writer

Accused murderer Terrence Dames has three weeks to decide whether or not to accept a plea offer in the stabbing death of 19-year-old Stephen M. LaPointe.

The Brooklyn man was offered 20 years to life, to avoid trial. If convicted he could face a maximum sentence of 25 years to life.

Dames, 26, of Brooklyn, pleaded not guilty before Judge Barry M. Donalty today to one count each of second-degree murder, fourth-degree possession of a weapon, second-degree forgery and false personation. His case was adjourned to Nov. 29 to report on the plea offer from the District Attorney’s Office.

Dames spoke only briefly in his court appearance this morning, answering the judge’s biographical questions about age and address.

Public Defender David Cooke spoke after the arraignment. Assistant District Attorney Paul Hernon declined to discuss the case.

Police said at about 3 a.m. Sept. 27, Dames was bicycling along Lawrence Street in south Rome when he encountered LaPointe and his friends. Police said heated words were exchanged between the two men before a fight broke out between Dames and LaPointe.

In a statement to police, Dames said LaPointe and his friends were the aggressors and made racially-charged comments towards him. LaPointe’s friends, however, claim Dames made the first comment and egged on the fight, according to their statements.

Police said Dames used a knife to stab LaPointe four times in the torso. Dames then fled the scene, and police said he is believed to have tossed the knife into the Barge Canal.

Dames was taken into custody at about 8 a.m. that same day after police had set up a search for him in south Rome. Police said Dames gave police a fake name when he was taken into custody, and then forged that name when he was booked into the Justice Building.