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Byers rejects plea deal in attack on classmate Appearance delayed after he refuses to leave jail

Curtis Byers apparently did not want to leave his jail cell to go to court Wednesday. When he finally got there, he had no interest in the deal prosecutors were offering him.

Byers, 18, whose criminal record includes arson and armed robbery convictions, rejected a plea deal in an assault on a fellow Williamsville South High School student.

Instead of taking a deal that likely would have kept him in prison for an extra year, he said he wants to stand trial and face the possibility of another seven years behind bars.

Byers' appearance was delayed for two hours because he refused to leave the Erie County Holding Center. As State Supreme Court Justice John L. Michalski was preparing to have Byers brought to court by force, he relented.

Michalski told Byers that if he pleaded guilty as charged to felony assault, he would receive a prison term of "five or six years" running concurrent with the four-year term he received June 5 for a probation violation.

Prosecutor Brian K. Parker said District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III insists that Byers not be allowed to plead to a lesser charge. Defense lawyer Francis Amendola told the judge he has warned Byers he faces another seven years in prison if convicted at trial but Byers "rejects the offer."

Byers was charged with assault after he allegedly attacked Michael Lang on March 24 in the school cafeteria and injured him so badly that he needed facial reconstructive surgery.

After an article about the attack appeared in The Buffalo News, officials in the Buffalo Fire and Police departments reported that Byers had earlier faced arson charges in a 2007 Wende Street fire that left firefighter Mark Reed with life-threatening injuries and the loss of his leg.

In that case, Byers was prosecuted in Family Court as a juvenile delinquent and did not face jail time because he was 15 when he committed the crime.

A few months after that court appearance, Byers was back before a judge on an armed robbery charge. Following an emotional plea for leniency from his sister, he was placed on probation, and he moved to Williamsville to live with the sister.

Byers, a member of the high school wrestling team, is accused of assaulting Lang as Lang was collecting money for a gift for their coach.

Michalski, a former Amherst town prosecutor who has been active in town politics, recused himself from the assault case after Wednesday's proceedings.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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