A Durhamville man accused of killing a show horse in December accepted a plea offer Thursday.
UTICA — A Durhamville man accused of killing a show horse in December accepted a plea offer Thursday in Oneida County Court.
Robert Webster Jr., 43, pleaded guilty to felony second-degree criminal mischief in the December shooting of Jak, a show horse, in the town of Kirkland.
His plea is known as an Alford plea, meaning that he does not admit to the act, but instead acknowledged that the prosecution had enough evidence against him to possibly find him guilty at trial.
As a result of his plea he’ll serve between 1-1/3 to four years in state prison and make restitution for the value of the horse he killed. Prosecutors established that the horse was purchased at $6,250. He'll be sentenced on Thursday, Oct. 27.
The plea also satisfied all pending charges in Oneida County, which are allegations of arson and impersonating a police officer. It did not, however, settle any other matters in other counties, including in Madison County, where he has pending charges of burglary, criminal trespass and criminal mischief in connection with two separate cases in Oneida.
Webster was ordered in March to undergo a mental health evaluation, but after five months in a mental health facility he was found competent and able to assist in his own defense.
He said in court Thursday that he “does not recall” shooting the show horse, but sworn statements made by an acquaintance of Webster alleges that the defendant described shooting the horse to him.
Bruce Stempien, a Blossvale resident, told law enforcement that Webster was angered by a stranger who interrupted a conversation with his father, leading to him shooting the horse, according to his sworn statement.
“… he went and shot a horse somewhere off Route 5 in Kirkland,” Stempien told investigators. “He said he was going to the farm, he cut traffic off and put the gun out the window and shot the horse. He said he watched the horse fall, and then he left.”
Webster’s public defender Cory Zennamo described the evidence against his client as “circumstantial,” in addition to the fact that Webster does not recall anything of the incident.
“Webster wanted to take care of this particular issue, and given circumstances and circumstantial evidence, taking all that into consideration that’s why he decided to do what he did today,” he said.
He said Webster opted to plead guilty rather than offering a defense of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect because Webster could have ended up spending considerable time in a secure mental health facility as a result.
“It’s a difficult decision to make for my client and me on whether or not to pull the trigger on that defense,” he said. “It might be true but a potential result could be a permanent stay at that facility. It could also result in a short amount of time, but some people get 10 to 15 years in a facility.”
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