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Buffalo man weighs taking guilty plea in murder, other violent crimes

A 20-year-old man let a judge know through his attorney Friday that he needs a little more time to calculate the sentencing numbers before agreeing to plead guilty to murder along with two unrelated violent felonies.

Leonard “Pooder” Robinson of Alexander Street will mull his options from jail. He has been held without bail since he was arrested shortly after Christmas in California, where prosecutors say he fled after killing Antoin Vance on Nov. 29.

When Vance, 42, was shot to death in his Purdy Street home, Robinson was free on $50,000 bail while awaiting trial on four felony charges in connection with an armed robbery at a Bailey Avenue barbershop in June.

Robinson pleaded guilty Friday in State Supreme Court to two counts of first-degree robbery. Because the crimes are classified as violent felony offenses, each carries a possible maximum sentence of up to 25 years in prison.

However, Justice Russell P. Buscaglia and the District Attorney’s Office agreed that, if Robinson also pleads guilty to the charge of second-degree murder in Vance’s death, whatever sentence he receives would run concurrently with the murder sentence, which could be up to life in prison.

Should Robinson not plead guilty in the murder case and is later convicted of all the crimes at trial, the sentences could run consecutively, meaning he could face spending 50 years in prison on the robbery charges before even starting the sentence for the murder.

Or he could take a chance on being found not guilty.

After entering his conditional plea in Buscaglia’s courtroom, Robinson appeared before Justice Penny M. Wolfgang, where his attorney, Michael L. D’Amico, said his client was not yet ready to enter a plea in the murder case but would return to court on May 3 or sooner with his decision.

Assistant District Attorney John Patrick Feroleto told the judge that the defense has all the information it should need about the prosecution’s evidence to help Robinson make up his mind, including the results of DNA tests and other evidence linking Robinson to Vance’s shooting.

“The defendant’s DNA is on the gun used in this case, and his blood is on the airbag in the crashed car, not to mention the two eyewitnesses and his confession,” Feroleto said.

Nevertheless, D’Amico said, “He has a few questions.”

The murder case drew extra attention after it was connected to a bizarre traffic event that happened shortly afterward.

According to investigators, after Vance and a 24-year-old woman who was with him were shot in a house at 302 Purdy St., the perpetrator sped away from the crime scene on Woodlawn Avenue, and, failing to stop at Humboldt Parkway, crashed through a guardrail and drove 25 to 30 feet straight down onto the Kensington Expressway.

Incredibly, Robinson allegedly was able to get out of the car and flee on foot. Having crashed his car, he is believed to have taken a bus to California shortly afterward. He was arrested a few weeks later in Los Angeles and returned to Buffalo with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service.

Robinson turned 20 years old in December. Should he decide to enter the guilty plea on the murder charge and receive concurrent sentences, there is the possibility that he could be paroled eventually.