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Jury convicts Niagara Falls man on gun charge, acquits on drug counts

LOCKPORT - A Niagara County Court jury reached a split verdict Thursday in the trial of a Niagara Falls man whose original guilty pleas were canceled after an appeal.

Frank M. Thomas, 36, of Memorial Parkway, was found guilty of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, but the jury acquitted him on two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, both stemming from a Feb. 14, 2013, police raid on his home. Police said they found about two-thirds of an ounce of cocaine and a loaded, unregistered handgun.

Thomas could receive as long as 15 years in prison when he returns before Judge Sara Sheldon for sentencing Nov. 28. Thomas also is still awaiting trial on an indictment accusing him of burglarizing an electronic cigarette store on Pine Avenue in the Falls on the night of July 30-31, 2013.

He had pleaded guilty in both of the 2013 cases, and in February 2014, Sheldon promised him a concurrent sentence of no more than five years behind bars. But while out on bail awaiting sentencing, Thomas was arrested twice on felony drug counts, so on July 16, 2014, Sheldon canceled her sentencing promise and gave him seven years.

Thomas appealed, and the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that Sheldon should have stuck to her five-year promise because she didn't tell Thomas when he pleaded guilty that the deal was at risk if he got in more trouble before he was sentenced. After the appellate ruling, Thomas opted to withdraw his guilty pleas rather than have Sheldon resentence him.

The two drug felonies were resolved in 2015 with a single guilty plea, and Sheldon sentenced Thomas to 3 1/2 years. That sentence remains in force and was not affected by the appeal.


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