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PLEA-DEAL DISCUSSIONS HELD IN KING CASE

State prosecutors are stepping up plea-bargain discussions with defendants in the beating death of Kevin King of Olean.

On Tuesday, attorneys for defendant Cory Shea, 27, of Florida met behind closed doors with prosecutors but did not reach a plea deal.

Cattaraugus County Court Judge Larry M. Himelein has set the trial's start date as Sept. 8.

"We've not made any formal offers," said Rick Goodell, assistant attorney general. "We intend to discuss that with (King) family members first. The position of the family is of prime importance in this."

King, 28, was beaten and kicked to death in a melee Oct. 23, 1994, outside an Olean coffee shop.

Sources close to the case say six of the eight defendants are expected to be offered pleas to criminally negligent homicide in exchange for trial cooperation against two others.

Meanwhile, several attorneys are seeking separate trials, but Himelein has yet to issue a ruling.

Shea and six others have pleaded innocent to charges of second-degree murder, first- and second-degree manslaughter and first- and second-degree assault. An eighth person has pleaded innocent to lesser charges.

More pretrial talks are scheduled for next Wednesday.

Members of State Attorney General Dennis Vacco's staff are prosecuting the case, acting as assistant district attorneys to Cattaraugus County District Attorney Michael P. Nevins.

Pressed by Randy King, the victim's brother, the Cattaraugus County Legislature brought Vacco and his office into the case in March 1995 after a grand jury failed to indict anyone.

King's body was exhumed and a second autopsy determined his death was a homicide. Last November, a second Cattaraugus County grand jury indicted eight men and two women. Charges since have been dropped against two.

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