Ricky Q. Caldwell was sent to state prison Tuesday for his 66th criminal conviction. This time, he robbed a man in his car outside a 7-Eleven store in Niagara Falls.
It was the sixth time in his life, not counting parole violations, that Caldwell has been sent to state prison. But he vowed that this time would be his last.
"In my illustrious career, I apologize, and I retire," Caldwell, 52, told State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr.
Caldwell made a similar pledge in 2013, the last time he went to prison. Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon gave him two to four years then for attempted robbery after Caldwell pulled a knife on a clerk who tried to stop him from shoplifting at a Family Dollar store in the Falls.
"You have more convictions than you are old. What does it take for you to get tired?" Sheldon asked him at that time.
Caldwell said Tuesday he was certain back then that he would never be back in court again. He had told Sheldon that once he finished the sentence she imposed, he intended to move to Louisiana and start a new life.
But when he was released last June, after serving time on a parole violation, Caldwell learned that Niagara Falls police wanted to talk to him about a robbery outside the 7-Eleven store Jan. 18, 2016.
Caldwell left his glasses in the victim's car.
And a DNA sample from the glasses solved the crime, according to Niagara County Assistant District Attorney Claudette S. Caldwell, who is not related to the defendant.
Caldwell, who was free on parole at the time of the robbery outside the 7-Eleven, pleaded guilty May 1 to a reduced charge of attempted second-degree robbery. Kloch agreed as part of the plea bargain to give him the minimum sentence: three years behind bars and five years of post-release supervision.
Caldwell noted that Kloch was one of the few superior court judges in Niagara County before whom he had never previously appeared.
"You seem to flourish in prison," Kloch said.
His court-appointed defense attorney Amy M. Taylor apparently agreed.
"He's well respected in jail," Taylor said. "He seems to be admired by the staff and the inmates. When you go to visit a client at the jail, it's rare that people are smiling and joking around."
Caldwell has taken the opportunity to talk to young people visiting the county jail.
"I think BOCES brings classes through there and they have the opportunity to talk to inmates," Taylor said.
Caldwell said he thinks he can be a good influence on younger people when he comes home.
Caldwell's criminal record, dating back nearly 35 years, tells a different story. It features a long list of petit larcenies, burglaries and robberies, with the occasional sex offense, auto theft or drug sale thrown in.
In 1983, Caldwell went to state prison for the first time, serving 2 1/2 years for first-degree sexual abuse.
His prison resume also includes three years for attempted robbery in 1991; six years for selling crack cocaine in 1997; and three years for attempted burglary in 2005. All his felonies occurred in Niagara County.
The archives of The Buffalo News contain dozens of Ricky Caldwell arrest and conviction stories, all from Niagara Falls.
Besides numerous shoplifting cases, burglaries and muggings, other highlights include an attempt to alter a $1 bill to look like a $20 bill in 1990; being caught with a hammer as he tried to pry open a locked car in 2008; and backing a stolen vehicle into the bumper of a police car in 2011.
"As I tell young people, your past follows you," Kloch said.