By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — It wasn't the third time, but the fourth that was a charm for Niagara County prosecutors trying to close a plea deal with a Falls robbery suspect.
And even Wednesday's plea proceeding for Paul Schubert had an unexpected turn before it ended.
Schubert, 21, was in the process of pleading guilty to a pair of robberies of Falls convenience stores when trouble developed.
He had pleaded guilt to a charge of attempted first-degree robbery, admitting that he had used a knife to hold-up a 7-Eleven store in the 6800 block of Buffalo Avenue. But when Niagara County Court Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas asked Schubert, in pleading guilty to a charge of second-degree robbery, if had had an accomplice while holding-up a 7-Eleven store in the 7600 block of Buffalo Avenue, he balked.
Schubert told the judge he had committed the robbery by himself. First Assistant District Attorney Doreen Hoffmann told Farkas that Schubert was "not telling the truth."
Farkas, who had already called off previous attempts by Schubert to plead guilty because of concerns over whether he was "voluntarily" making the plea, was ready to scuttle the proceedings again. Then Schubert's defense team huddled with Hoffmann and the defendant was taken from the courtroom.
The lawyers revealed later that Schubert had been whisked up to the district attorney's third-floor offices in the Niagara County courthouse and shown surveillance camera video of the hold-up that clearly showed his accomplice.
Schubert then returned to Farkas' courtroom and, with his memory refreshed, admitted he had not committed that Buffalo Avenue robbery on his own.
Farkas accepted Schubert's pleas and and agreed that she would cap his potential prison term at 10 years, when he is sentenced on March 1.
As part of the deal, prosecutors agreed to drop charges in another Falls convenience store robbery and similar hold-ups in the Town of Wheatfield and North Tonawanda.
Schubert was originally charged with first- and second-degree robbery, second-degree attempted robbery, second-degree menacing and fourth-degree grand larceny for the three Falls robberies that took place between Sept. 5 and 12. He could have faced up to 30 years behind bars if he had been convicted on those charges.