A state appellate court has unanimously upheld the convictions of a Henderson man who killed another man with a punch outside a bar and a Rodman man who killed an 84-year-old Brownville man by hitting him on the head with a bottle.
The Appellate Division, Fourth Department, affirmed manslaughter convictions against Clifford K. Pickett Jr. and Todd A. Ferguson in decisions released Friday. It also affirmed the first-degree robbery conviction of Henry J. Whitehead for his role in robbing and injuring a convenience store clerk in Adams.
Pickett, 37, is serving a four- to eight-year sentence at Franklin Correctional Facility, Malone, for a July 2006 guilty plea to second-degree manslaughter. He was accused of causing the death of John R. Hollingsworth, 49, by punching him in the head Sept. 16, 2005, outside the now-closed Henderson Hotel. Mr. Hollingsworth fell, striking his head on pavement, and died the following day of blunt trauma.
Pickett tried to withdraw his guilty plea before his Oct. 6, 2006, sentencing and again the day of the sentencing. Jefferson County Judge Kim H. Martusewicz denied both motions for dismissal. In his appeal, Pickett contended the court abused its discretion by denying the motions.
The appellate court rejected the contention, ruling that the record showed Pickett's guilty plea was a "voluntary, knowing and intelligent" one. Pickett also claimed that his attorney, James R. McGraw, Syracuse, had misinformed him that the judge's denial of his motion could be challenged after entering his guilty plea. The higher court found there was no record of his attorney telling him that.
Ferguson, 44, is serving a 25-year sentence at Attica Correctional Facility for August 2005 guilty pleas to first-degree manslaughter, first-degree assault, third-degree attempted robbery, first-degree robbery and first-degree reckless endangerment.
He admitted in County Court that he was drinking and using cocaine when he went to the Brownville home of Enrico "Henry" DiMinico to get money on Dec. 29, 2004. He said that he became angry and struck Mr. DiMinico, 84, on the head with a bottle, and that when he saw the man was unconscious, he considered stealing money, but did not find any. Mr. DiMinico died of multiple skull fractures and bleeding in the brain.
Mr. Whitehead, 21, formerly of Watertown, is serving a six-year sentence at Greene Correctional Facility, Coxsackie, for a September 2006 guilty plea to first-degree robbery.
He and three others were accused of taking part in a Jan. 31, 2006, armed robbery of Rose M. Parish as she left Mercer's store in Adams to make a bank deposit. Mrs. Parish was pushed to the ground in the robbery and struck her head on a sidewalk. She suffered a head injury that left her hospitalized for three days. It was alleged that Mr. Whitehead brandished a knife in the attack.
Brett M. Porter, 19, formerly of Watertown, was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in the attack, and Ramon R. Anchondo, 26, formerly of Fort Drum, was sentenced to 31/2 years in prison. Oneita C. Forkey, 19, Watertown, was sentenced to five years' probation for her role.
Mr. Whitehead contended his County Court sentence, which was part of plea bargain, was unduly harsh based on the sentences Mr. Porter and Mr. Anchondo received. The appellate court disagreed.