Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

June 8, 2012

McNew plea stands

BY JOE OLENICK, joe.olenick@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

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.

McNew’s lawyer at the time of Feb. 9 did everything he could to represent McNew, Donatello said. That included a number of hearings, a DNA test and spoke with McNew a number of times.

“Given the defendant was facing 25 years and 20 years post release supervision, it seems he (the lawyer) was effective,” Donatello said.

McNew is facing a state prison sentence ranging from three and a half to 15 years, as well as up to 15 years of post release supervision.

Donatello added McNew was very familiar with how the court system works. A college graduate, McNew has been arrested, but never charged, in a few domestic violence incidents.

“He’s familiar with how courts work and how charges are dropped,” Donatello said.

Murphy agreed and denied the motion, calling McNew’s decision to take the plea, “buyer’s remorse.”

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241.