LOCKPORT – In what smacked of a compromise verdict, a Niagara County Court jury convicted a Niagara Falls man Wednesday of a misdemeanor, not a felony, in connection with what prosecutors said was an attack on another man with a golf club.
The result was a break for Dennis C. Jeffrey, 51, of Ashland Avenue, who could have faced seven years in prison if he had been convicted of second-degree assault. Taking into account the normal Niagara County Jail early release policy, he already has served enough time to cover the maximum one-year sentence for third-degree assault, which is the charge the jury adopted Wednesday.
“They found him guilty of what they should have found him guilty of,” defense attorney Robert Viola said.
However, Jeffrey remains in jail because a parole violation was filed after the July 19 assault arrest. Viola believes Jeffrey, also known as Dennis Townsend, still owes about 2½ years of prison time on a 10- to 20-year sentence imposed in 1995 for two drug sales and a stolen property count.
Viola said he believes the Parole Board will be more lenient with Jeffrey now that he has been convicted of a misdemeanor rather than a felony.
Jurors said afterward that one male juror refused to vote for conviction on the felony assault charge and also refused to vote guilty on a count of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, which also carries a maximum seven-year sentence.
County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III, who presided over the seven-day trial, ordered the sides back to court June 12. Assistant District Attorney Ryan K. Parisi, who prosecuted the case with colleague Peter M. Wydysh, said that’s when the District Attorney’s Office will disclose whether it wants to retry Jeffrey on the weapons charge.
Viola said he will move to dismiss that count, because the jury acquitted Jeffrey on the felony assault charge, which required the prosecution to prove he inflicted serious injury with a dangerous instrument.
Jeffrey admitted that he grabbed a golf club out of his truck after a confrontation with Jesus Portugues of Ashland Avenue at about 11 p.m. July 19.
Jeffrey testified he held the club in his left hand and punched Portugues near the eye with his right hand. However, a neighbor watching from across the street said Jeffrey hit the victim with the club. Portugues was cut near the eye and his glasses were bent and broken.