Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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June 8, 2012

McNew plea stands

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Instead of a plea withdrawal, Shawn A. McNew was given a sentencing date of July 9.

The date was given moments after McNew’s motion to withdraw a guilty plea was denied by Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III on Thursday in Niagara County Court.

On Feb. 9, McNew, 40, Fernwood Drive, Town of Lockport, pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree criminal sexual act. According to the arrest report, McNew sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl in September.

McNew filed a motion in April to withdraw the plea, claiming he was confused and felt rushed to accept the offer. Attorney Angelo Musitano said McNew left Niagara County Court on Feb. 9 under the impression he was heading to trial, which would have began Feb. 27.

Part of the plea deal included bribery and coercion charges being dropped against McNew’s children, Musitano said. McNew wanted more time to talk over the deal with family, but felt rushed, Musitano argued.

“He felt had to take the plea or his children would be arrested,” he said.

Musitano cited a pair of court decisions supporting the withdrawal of the plea, adding McNew was hesitant at the Feb. 9 hearing when asked about the plea. Discussions held off the court record led McNew to believe the plea deal was different from what was actually offered.

Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Donatello disagreed, saying what was on the record is what mattered. If there was any concern raised from an off the record conversation, it should have been addressed on the record.

“If the court can’t rely on that record, what’s the point of going through all that?” Donatello asked.

McNew said on the record he wasn’t being rushed or coerced into taking the plea, Donatello said. She added the court decisions Musitano referred to were because the defense lawyers in them did not explain the plea deals to their clients.

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