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Suspect in sex assault on Japanese tourist rejects plea offer

LOCKPORT – The attorney representing Robert W. MacLeod, the man accused of robbing and sexually assaulting a Japanese tourist in Niagara Falls State Park, thinks MacLeod should accept a plea offer.

MacLeod insists he’s innocent and said he’d rather go to trial – with a new lawyer.

“He has informed me he no longer wishes to retain my services,” defense attorney A. Joseph Catalano said Tuesday in Niagara County Court.

Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann announced a plea offer for MacLeod: two felonies, second-degree robbery and first-degree sexual abuse. She said those likely would be sentenced concurrently, making the maximum prison term 15 years. The mandatory minimum would be 3½ years. That’s the same prison time MacLeod could serve if he were convicted at trial on the original indictment.

Catalano told Judge Matthew J. Murphy III that MacLeod wants to go to trial and insists that he won’t plead guilty to a sex crime.

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“I’ve informed him I don’t believe that’s in his best interest, based on the evidence, the DVDs and the statements,” Catalano said. Hoffmann said the Christmas night robbery of the woman tourist was filmed on a surveillance video, but the alleged sexual assault occurred out of camera range.

MacLeod said he hasn’t met with Catalano since the week of June 10. “He hasn’t discussed the evidence with me,” MacLeod told the judge. “He stated I have to plead to this and accept the recommendation. … I don’t feel I have to plead to something I didn’t do.”

MacLeod also complained that Catalano won’t make any effort to have Murphy readdress his bail. MacLeod has been in the County Jail since his arraignment May 19, when Murphy doubled bail from $25,000 to $50,000.

MacLeod, 44, of 30th Street, Niagara Falls, had posted the lower bail, which was set in Niagara Falls City Court. Hoffmann said at the time that the lower figure was set when MacLeod was charged only with robbery.

After MacLeod declined to plead guilty in City Court, Hoffmann had the alleged victim flown from Japan to testify before a grand jury in April.

The sexual allegations came out and were included in the eventual indictment.

Michael C. Schmahl, MacLeod’s original attorney, withdrew from the case at the City Court level.

At the County Court arraignment, Hoffmann asked for bail to be set at $100,000, but Murphy chose $50,000, giving no explanation.

He wouldn’t talk about it Tuesday, when MacLeod sought to press the issue. “I’ve already made my ruling,” Murphy said.

He told MacLeod he would consider only requests for revised bail made in writing by an attorney, not by MacLeod directly.

“I encourage you two gentlemen to meet together and talk to each other,” Murphy advised MacLeod and Catalano.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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