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Shunned by Army, defendant gets probation

Uncle Sam may not want Michael P. Guerra, but his new girlfriend does, and Guerra and his lawyer said Tuesday that he is turning over a new leaf for her.

Guerra, the Niagara Falls 20-year-old who was directed by Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza to follow through on his stated plan to join the Army as a condition for discharging him on a domestic violence misdemeanor, was resentenced Tuesday to three years' probation.

When he appeared for his first sentencing Jan. 25, Guerra told Sperrazza he had been contacted by an Army recruiter, wanted to join up and even had taken some preliminary tests.

"I do not believe the military would have taken him. Quite frankly, what I did was call his bluff," Sperrazza said in court.

When The Buffalo News first reported on the case in late January, Army spokesmen said regulations prohibited them from inducting anyone as a condition of a court sentence.

Assistant Public Defender Matthew P. Pynn said: "Nobody was more surprised than me when this story caught the imagination of the press. I had strangers literally calling my office to express their opinion. . . . There were blogs on the subject. I was getting calls from reporters from everywhere."

"I think all this is for the better," said Guerra's new girlfriend, Jennifer Niesser. "Now he can get his life together."

"Four or five months ago, Mr. Guerra didn't care if he went to jail," Pynn said. But Guerra started dating Niesser around New Year's and said he has a new outlook on life.

He has been working through a temporary agency for the past month and a half, primarily at Innovative Chemical in Amherst. Guerra is obtaining his driver's license and has registered to take business administration courses at Bryant & Stratton.

Guerra was charged with entering a North Tonawanda apartment Oct. 29, 2004, where his ex-girlfriend was visiting a friend. Prosecutors said the friend was kneed in the stomach.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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