Just as their trial was getting underway Tuesday in Erie County Court, three young men pleaded guilty to raping a teenager in May 2014.
Shameek Young, 18, of Hazelwood Avenue pleaded guilty to two counts of rape in the first degree and three counts of criminal sexual act.
Daqwan Morris, 19, of Hudson Street pleaded guilty to one count of first degree rape and one count of criminal sexual act.
Paul Brown, 18, of Lang Avenue pleaded guilty to one count of rape in the first degree.
Two other men who participated in the attack, Dequan Rosenthal and Cornelius Caddele, pleaded guilty previously.
The 18-year-old victim went to Morris’s house at his invitation. When she arrived, according to prosecutors, Morris and Rosenthal overpowered her and she was raped and sodomized . The young woman was taken to the attic of the house, where all five teens took turns raping and sodomizing her over the course of four hours. Some of the attackers recorded the assault with their cellphones and posted portions on social media.
It was later learned that a local attorney already had one of the phones and investigators found extensive recordings of the crimes saved on it.
Defense attorneys had been presenting motions before jury selection Monday morning and the trial appeared to be moving forward, but Judge Kenneth F. Case announced Tuesday that the three teens had spoken with each other, their attorneys and their families and decided to withdraw their pleas of not guilty.
All the convictions are class B violent sexual felonies.
Had they been found guilty at trial of the same charges, Morris and Young could have faced up to 40 years in prison and brown could have gotten up to 25 years.
However, in consideration of the pleas, the judge agreed to cap the sentencing maximum for each defendant.
Case said he would commit to a sentencing cap of nine years in prison for Young plus up to 20 years post-release supervision.
He will sentence Morris to no more than seven years incarceration plus up to 20 years supervision, and he capped Brown’s sentence at five years.
However, the judge also said he would “seriously consider” youthful offender status for Brown, who was 17 when the crimes were committed. Should that occur, Brown could be sentenced to as little as 16 months in jail, or probation, and would not have to register as a sex offender.
Case made it clear his commitments were “based on the facts as I know them” and ordered presentencing reports for each defendant. All three are being held without bail and return to court for sentencing Feb. 22.
“Rape is a crime of secrecy and cowardice,” Assistant District Attorney Ryan Haggerty said in a statement following the pleas. “Thanks to the courage and strength of the victim, and a methodical and unrelenting police investigation, we succeeded in bringing all of the perpetrators to justice.”
The DA’s office particularly noted the efforts of Buffalo Police Detective Judy Walker, saying her work was critical to securing the convictions.