Faced with multiple felony charges that could have sent him to prison for up to 25 years, a Le Roy resident arrested for a home-invasion sexual assault entered a guilty plea to rape in the first degree on condition that he serve no more than 18 years.
Charles D. Johnson, 29, of 82 Gilbert St., Building #14, Apt. #6, Le Roy, was offered the deal by Assistant District Attorney Kevin Finnell prior to a scheduled evidence hearing in County Court this afternoon.
Johnson was indicted on counts of predatory sexual abuse, a Class A-II violent felony, burglary in the first degree, a Class B violent felony, and criminal possession of a weapon, a Class D felony.
He entered a guilty plea to a Class B violent felony. If convicted at trial, he would have faced 10 to 25 years in prison.
The deal reduces his possible jail sentence to eight to 18 years.
A guilty plea involves Judge Robert C. Noonan asking the defendant a series of questions. First, Noonan must ensure the defendant understands his rights and what rights he's giving up with his guilty plea. He must also make sure the defendant understands the consequences of a guilty plea.
During this process, there were some wrinkles in the case with Johnson.
First, under questioning from Noonan, Johnson said he hadn't been given adequate time to think about the plea deal offered to him by the DA's office.
That lead to a 45-minute recess so Johnson -- who was representing himself rather than having an attorney at his side -- to confer with a member of his family.
After the recess, Noonan put Johnson under oath and began to ask him questions about the events of May 9.
Johnson said he couldn't remember raping the victim.
"I don't remember anything," Johnson said. "I was too high."
Finnell said the people were prepared to accept Johnson's plea on an Alford basis, which means the defendent doesn't admit to the specifics of a crime, just that a juy would probably convict the defendant based on the people's evidence.
Among the evidence that would be offered at trial is a DNA match for Johnson that has a 1.13 quintillion probability of matching a person other than Johnson. Johnson also matches the physical description provided by the victim.
When Noonan asked Johnson if he believed there was a reasonable probability that a jury would convict him, Johnson said, "No, I do not."
This started a several minute conversation where Noonan explained to Johnson how the law worked, explaining that Noonan could only accept Johnson's guilty plea if he admitted to the factual evidence or admitted that the evidence against him was strong enough that he believed a jury would convict him.
"I can't say what a jury would do," Johnson said.
Noonan said, of course not, but "that's why I asked if you believe there is a reasonable probability that a jury would find you guilty."
Noonan asked, "have you heard the evidence and do you have reason to believe a jury would convict you?"
Johnson replied, "I have heard the evidence and I believe a jury would convict me."
Prior to today's hearing, Johnson has also been provided with all of the police reports and evidence reports in the case, and as his own attorney had a chance to personally review the case against him, according to Noonan.
According to Finnell, Johnson has a prior felony conviction in Erie County that Johnson claims he received inadequate representation on.
Johnson, Finnell said, entered a guilty plea in 2003 of attempted criminal possession of a controlled substance, 5th.
If Johnson can get that conviction vacated before his sentencing, the potential minimum term on the rape conviction would be five years.
Johnson admitted to breaking into the home of a woman in Le Roy and raping her in early May. He was captured two weeks later by Le Roy Police Department investigators.
As part of the plea, he is waiving all rights to an appeal.
Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 24.