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Beer bottle hurler declines judge’s offer of immediate jail

LOCKPORT – Darious J. Stephens will be going to state prison for striking a store clerk in the face with a full bottle of beer, but he decided Wednesday he doesn’t want to go behind bars right away.

Stephens, 28, of Eighth Street, Niagara Falls, faces mandatory state prison time because he is a repeat felon. Wednesday, State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. offered Stephens a chance to begin serving his sentence immediately in the Niagara County Jail while he awaits trial on an unrelated drug charge, but Stephens said no, electing to remain free on bail.

Stephens pleaded guilty Wednesday to a reduced charge of attempted second-degree assault for fracturing a store clerk’s nose and eye socket July 24 at the Hometown Market on Pierce Avenue in the Falls. Assistant District Attorney Kevin D. Canali said Stephens threw the glass bottle at the clerk during an argument over payment. Stephens will have to pay restitution for medical costs not covered by the clerk’s insurance, but the amount has not been determined.

Stephens will be sentenced Aug. 17 to as long as four years behind bars, but he is scheduled for trial Aug. 29 on a charge of selling more than half an ounce of cocaine for $1,150 to a Falls police informant Sept. 11. Wednesday, Stephens rejected a plea offer that would have carried a maximum of 12 years in prison for that.

Assistant Public Defender Michael H. White said if Stephens is convicted or pleads guilty in the drug case, his sentence will be served consecutively to whatever Kloch gives him in the assault case. That’s because Stephens allegedly sold the cocaine while he was free on bail for the beer bottle assault.