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December 20, 2013

Snarl in Taylor sentencing stems from 1996 plea deal

Defense attorney challenges validity of 1996 conviction

ELIZABETHTOWN — There is a technical snarl in court sentencing for Paul J. Taylor.

His defense attorney on Thursday challenged the validity of a prior conviction, saying legal questions relating to a case from 1996 should affect the prison time court will set for Taylor for killing Robert M. Rennie in August 2012.

A former resident of Keeseville, Taylor was convicted of second-degree murder in Essex County Court in October for his role the gang assault that ended Rennie’s life.

Taylor and accomplices Scott E. Denno and Michael D. Rivers engaged in a three-against-one fight, leaving Rennie to die on the early morning of Aug. 26 last year.

Out on parole at the time, Taylor had served time for second-degree manslaughter in connection with the death of Marcus Chadwick back in May 1996.

PLEA DEAL

Chadwick, of Pittsford, Vt., had allegedly been drinking with Taylor and Taylor’s roommate Mark Hathaway, and the trio were driving along back roads in Moriah on May 3, 1996, according to court accounts. 

Chadwick was found dead on May 14 off the Tracey Road that year, his body pinned face down to the ground by a large tree. Police initially thought the death was accidental.

Statements made to police at the time revealed that Hathaway and Taylor got into a drunken fight with Chadwick and that Hathaway had dragged the unconscious victim into the woods. 

Then, with Taylor’s help, he placed the tree on top of Chadwick. Police said he died from hypothermia and asphyxiation.

Taylor, then 23, was living near Rutland, Vt., with Hathaway. Both men were extradited for trial in New York.  But before the trial started, Taylor and Hathaway agreed to a plea deal.

Taylor went to prison in March 1997 and was released in Jan. 2010.

CONTESTED CONVICTION

As Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague submitted prison paperwork in court Thursday, Public Defender Brandon Boutelle raised legal questions.

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