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Oswegatchie man pleads guilty to 2012 theft after previous denials

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CANTON — In his third court appearance in two weeks, the Oswegatchie man accused of participating in several June 2012 burglaries complied with a plea deal in St. Lawrence County Court on Wednesday that kept him from heading to trial.

Robert L. McGuinness, 33, of 10 Browns Falls Road, pleaded guilty to the class D violent felony of second-degree attempted burglary for his participation in a June 17, 2012, theft in the town of Clifton.

Mr. McGuinness told County Judge Jerome J. Richards, under oath, that he and codefendant Cody J. Tennant, then 20, went to the residence of James A. Allen, where Mr. Tennant allegedly stole shop lights.

Mr. McGuinness said he provided the vehicle that took them to and from the residence with the knowledge that a theft was going to take place. Mr. Tennant died in a car crash in September in Canton.

The guilty plea comes as a part of a revised agreement reached May 2 between Mr. McGuinness’s attorney,

Public Defender Stephen D. Button, and Assistant District Attorney Joshua HaberkornHalm, requiring Mr. McGuinness to withdraw two motions filed with the court seeking dismissals of his case and to plead to the reduced second count of the indictment that charged him with two counts of second-degree burglary.

At sentencing, Mr. McGuinness is expected to be placed on five years’ probation and will have to undergo a mental health evaluation and comply with any suggestions made, including prescriptions for mental health medications.

The plea deal also will satisfy a Superior Court Information charge of two counts of third-degree burglary, a 2012 Superior Court Information charge of a third count of third-degree burglary and a pending charge of criminal possession of stolen property out of Fine Town Court.

During appearances April 23 and May 2, Mr. McGuinness was expected, but failed, to comply with an original plea deal, refusing to admit his participation in the alleged crimes. He claimed he was unaware of what was going on during the thefts, that he was not taking his mental health medications and that he was taken advantage of. Judge Richards, on both occasions, returned Mr. McGuinness to St. Lawrence County jail and told him he was headed to trial.

Following Mr. McGuinness’s plea Wednesday, Mr. Button said he spoke with his client after his May 2 meeting with Mr. HaberkornHalm and said the deal was better than the one previously agreed upon.

“I recommended this agreement to my client because I believe it is in his best interest,” Mr. Button said. “He had previously given a two-page confession to all of the charges against him.”

Sentencing is scheduled for July 21 and Mr. McGuinness was returned to St. Lawrence County jail pending approval of a suitable residence by probation officials.

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