Niagara Gazette

October 18, 2013

Redden gets new lawyer in fight to change guilty plea

By Rick Pfeiffer rick.pfeiffer@niagara-gazette.com
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT —Cornelius Redden III has a new lawyer, but his effort to change his guilty plea in drug, assault and weapons cases won’t be easy.

That was the message Niagara County Court Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas delivered to defense attorney Angelo Musitano during a brief proceeding on Wednesday. Musitano will replace Redden’s court-appointed public defender.

The Falls gangbanger has been trying to “fire” the public defender since just after he agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors in early August. The Falls teen, with a lengthy and violent criminal history, is facing up to eight years in prison for his guilty plea to assault, weapons and drug charges.

In a motion, filed on the same day he took a deal from prosecutors, Redden asked Farkas to allow him to withdraw his plea to charges of attempted fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, second-degree assault and attempted second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

Redden, 18, a known street gang member, who has a history of violence and drug-related arrests dating back to his early teens, took the deal to close three pending cases against him. The attempted drug possession charge he originally agreed to was tied to an October bust that caught him with a significant quantity of crack cocaine.

The assault charge was tied to a May 10 shooting of a rival drug dealer and the weapons charge stemmed from a June 2 incident where he accidentally shot himself.

As part of the deal, Farkas agreed to sentence Redden to no more than 7 years in prison for the assault and weapons charges and no more than one and a half years on the drug charge.

Redden had repeatedly rejected the plea offer and appeared sullen and uncooperative when he took the plea. At one point during that proceedings, Redden told Farkas he felt he was being pushed by his public defender, to take the plea deal.

“There was a lot of pressure on me from my lawyers,” he told the judge.

However, when the judge said she would not go forward with the plea, if he had been pressured, Redden retracted the claim and agreed to the deal. Farkas told Musitano he’ll have a tough time getting to reconsider the guilty plea.

“This is going to be a tough motion for him to prevail on,” Farkas said from the bench. “I didn’t want to take the plea, but he insisted. So this will be tough.”

Musitano asked for time to review the case files before deciding whether or not he’ll continue to seek to have the plea set aside. 

Redden is currently serving five years probation for a series of robberies he was convicted of when he was just 16. He was sentenced in that case as a youthful offender.

First Assistant District Attorney Doreen Hoffmann has previously noted that Redden was on probation when he was arrested on the drug charge and out on bail from the drug charge when he shot the rival dealer and himself.

In August 2011, Redden was also charged in connection with an attack on another inmate at the Niagara County Jail.