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Burglar who targeted wrong house shows up outside court after missing sentencing

A Buffalo man who failed to show up for sentencing Tuesday morning in connection with a break-in last May that mistakenly targeted a teacher’s East Side house was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon outside the courtroom.

James Williams, 23, of East Eagle Street, may be sentenced Wednesday by Erie County Judge Michael F. Pietruszka who had issued a warrant for his arrest when he failed to appear for Tuesday’s sentencing.

Williams pleaded guilty as charged in March to two counts of first-degree burglary for the break-in on May 14, 2014, at the home of the teacher’s on Blake Street.

The teacher lived two houses away from the home of an alleged drug dealer whom Williams and two accomplices had planned to rob, prosecutors said.

Williams and the others forced their way into the teacher’s home by mistake around midnight, pulled a gun on the frightened woman, who lived alone, and went through the house looking for “a guy who had been there earlier,” prosecutors said.

Finding no one, they drove away in a black Jeep Cherokee.

A neighbor who saw them get into the Jeep with guns in their hands called police.

When officers found the Jeep, they tried to pull it over, but the men took off, resulting in a high-speed chase that ended on Girard Place where the Jeep crashed into two parked cars.

Williams was apprehended with a knife he used to cut a window screen to get into the teacher’s home, prosecutors said, adding that footprints in the bathtub below that window matched his shoes.

One of the accomplices, Raymond Alston, 31, of Hill Street, is charged with two counts of first-degree burglary and fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle.

The third man has not been found.

Prosecutors said Williams had faced five years in prison under a sentencing commitment the judge gave him at the time of his guilty plea, but the judge canceled that commitment on Tuesday as a result of Williams’ failure to appear for sentencing.

Williams, who had been free on $20,000 bail pending sentencing, now faces up to 25 years in prison on the burglary charges.

He could face additional time if he is charged with jumping bail.