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Phillips now says guilty pleas were a mistake

Ralph "Bucky" Phillips now says he is innocent of the charges of murder and attempted murder to which he pleaded guilty last month in the shootings of two state troopers in Chautauqua County.

In a letter obtained by The Buffalo News, Phillips says he wrongfully pleaded guilty in an effort to help his daughter and her mother, who are criminally accused of helping him avoid police capture last summer.

"I am not guilty of the charges I pleaded guilty to . . . not even close," Phillips wrote in the letter, dated Dec. 11. "This entire plea agreement is based upon a tremendous lie to circumvent the truth from being told." He accused authorities of twisting the truth "to make me look like a coldblooded killer." He also said he is looking for a new lawyer but cannot afford to pay one.

Despite Phillips' allegations in the letter, his sentencing for the murder of Trooper Joseph A. Longobardo and attempted murder of Trooper Donald H. Baker Jr. is expected to go forward today in Chautauqua County Court.

"I'm planning to proceed fully with the sentencing," said Chautauqua County District Attorney David W. Foley. "Despite anything he's said in letters, there's been no formal request for him to withdraw his guilty plea. My opinion is that he admitted fully to this crime. Trying to recant what he said is disingenuous and self-serving."

In his letter, Phillips accused a state trooper of murdering Bradley A. Horton, who was fatally shot by a trooper while riding an all-terrain vehicle in the Town of Sheridan on June 25.

Phillips, 44, said Horton, 25, is the cousin of Phillips' daughter, Patrina Wright. He said he is convinced that a trooper thought Horton was Phillips when he shot him five times. Phillips said he was riding an ATV about eight miles away and was chased by troopers earlier the same day.

State police said Horton's shooting had no connection to the Phillips search.

e-mail: lmichel@buffnews.com and dherbeck@buffnews.com

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