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Judge won’t let Lockport man plead guilty in drug case

LOCKPORT – Rico L. Freeman wanted to take a plea offer in a Niagara County Court drug case Friday, but Judge Sara Sheldon wouldn’t let him, and he will go to trial on a felony drug indictment Monday.

At a previous court appearance, prosecutors offered Freeman a misdemeanor plea, and Sheldon promised him a probation sentence. But Freeman took no action, with defense attorney James J. Faso Jr. presuming he had time to think it over.

Faso brought Freeman to court Friday in hopes he could take the plea deal. But Sheldon insisted it was an offer that had to be taken at once or not at all. She said plea bargains must be taken approximately 30 days before a trial date, to keep the commissioner of jurors from sending out jury service notices that would be canceled. Faso said pleas have been taken at the last minute many times, but Sheldon said she will not allow that anymore.

Freeman, 31, of Strauss Road, Lockport, is charged with three counts each of third-degree sale and possession of crack cocaine for sales that allegedly occurred May 29 and June 1 and 3.