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Plea in Lewiston 'party house' case included two felonies and two misdemeanors

An 18-year-old student who pleaded guilty Monday to crimes he committed in a Lewiston home during parties admitted to two felonies and two misdemeanors, The Buffalo News has learned.

He pleaded guilty to third-degree rape and attempted first-degree sexual abuse, both felonies, and to two counts of misdemeanor second-degree sexual abuse.

Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon closed Monday's half-hour proceeding to the public and media, but The News confirmed the plea with two sources.

First Assistant District Attorney Holly E. Sloma declined to comment.

"Because this is a sealed matter, I am not able to comment," said defense attorney Barry N. Covert.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of 11 years in prison when the young man is sentenced July 30, but he could also be placed on probation.

He is also eligible for youthful offender status.

"That's critical, because he would not be a registered sex offender," said Thomas J. Eoannou, a Buffalo defense attorney not connected to this case. "There's a commitment to probation, and he can avoid jail if he survives interim probation."

Eoannou said he defended a teenager in a similar sex case several years ago and obtained a similar outcome.

"You always try to protect the child's future," Eoannou said. "It's exactly what defense attorneys strive for."

In the Lewiston case, the charges were reduced from those lodged by the State Police, which were first- and third-degree rape, first-degree sexual abuse involving forcible compulsion and first- and second-degree sexual abuse.

The victims — 15- or 16-year-old girls — attended parties at the home of Tricia Vacanti and Gary E. Sullo, the young man's mother and stepfather, on Mountain View Drive in Lewiston.

The charges state that the victims were unable to consent to sexual activity for reasons other than being under 17, which is the age of sexual consent in New York. The first-degree sexual abuse charge requires the prosecution to show the victim was "physically helpless."

The offender was 16 or 17 at the times of the crimes in 2017 and 2018. State Police arrested him and his mother Nov. 6.

Sullo, 53, and a family friend, Jessica M. Long, 40, were arrested Nov. 28.

Like Vacanti, 47, they were charged with unlawfully dealing with a child and endangering the welfare of a child during parties at the house, by supplying the minors with alcohol and marijuana. Those charges are all misdemeanors.

All of the adults' cases are being handled by Lewiston Town Justice Hugh C. Gee Sr., who last week denied defense motions to dismiss the charges. He set further proceedings for Sept. 10.

The earliest date given in the charges against Sullo is Dec. 2, 2016, the first of a series of dates on which prosecutors allege alcohol was given to minors. All three adults were accused of serving alcohol to kids on April 13, 2018.

Other dates when alcohol allegedly was served to minors at the house were June 24, Sept. 1, Dec. 8 and Dec. 31 in 2017, as well as June 24 and Aug. 25 in 2018.

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