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Falls man seeks to withdraw guilty plea in homicide

LOCKPORT – An attorney for Algernon R. Dix, a Niagara Falls man who pleaded guilty in connection with a fatal barroom shooting, argued last week that Dix should be allowed to withdraw his plea because the prosecution didn’t show all its cards to the defense.

“In 20 years of practicing law, I’ve never received so little paperwork, even on a misdemeanor case,” attorney Matthew Parrinello said in Niagara County Court.

Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann said she turned over only what she was required to by law in advance of a trial. She told Judge Matthew J. Murphy III that Dix’s effort to backtrack on his plea is “nothing more than buyer’s remorse.”

Murphy said he would make a decision by Feb. 29.

Dix, 35, of 16th Street, was charged with spraying gunfire around the 3M’s Club on Highland Avenue in the Falls during a private party March 7. Franchot B. Wallace, 29, was shot twice in the back and killed. Dix, originally charged with murder, pleaded guilty Sept. 8 to first-degree manslaughter in exchange for a sentencing promise of between 15 and 20 years.

Murphy, who has yet to pass sentence, could have given Dix as long as 25 years to life if he had been convicted at trial of the murder charge, plus another 15 years for an associated weapons possession count.

Hoffmann said she conveyed the plea offer to former defense counsel Herbert L. Greenman on May 29, and he asked more than once for more time to consider it. Murphy made his sentencing promise Aug. 31, but it took more than another week for Dix to take the deal. If Murphy lets Dix withdraw, a murder trial will be scheduled.

Parrinello, who replaced Greenman after the plea was entered, said his client was impressed by Murphy saying that he found there was a “prima facie” murder case against Dix.

Parrinello said, “Mr. Dix is standing here thinking, ‘The judge knows more than I do.’ He says, ‘I gotta plead.’ ”

Murphy said he was merely giving a ruling that the grand jury minutes were sufficient to support the indictment. “What’s wrong with me saying that at the time of the plea?” the judge asked.

Hoffmann said Murphy didn’t make the comment until after Dix had stated his intention to plead guilty.

Parrinello said Greenman went over the case “with a lack of police reports, lack of evidence, lack of anything.”

Hoffmann noted that at the time of the plea, Murphy asked Dix if he was satisfied with Greenman’s services, and Dix said yes.

“The law doesn’t say if you change your mind later, you can withdraw your plea,” Hoffmann argued. “You are not allowed to withdraw a plea just because you miscalculate the strength of the people’s case.”

Parrinello conceded, “Mr. Dix agrees that in a murder case when you’re facing 25 to life, a range of 15 to 20 is a good deal.”

Hoffmann said Greenman never complained about the amount of discovery – a lawyer’s term for shared evidence.

Parrinello said, “I don’t know if there was a discovery violation because I don’t know what’s out there.”

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com