May 19, 2013

Man who used knife in fight pleads guilty

ELIZABETHTOWN — A man who pulled a knife during a disagreement at a Ticonderoga apartment and slashed another man’s face is headed to state prison for 11/2 to 3 years.

Robert J. Chenier, 32, of Ticonderoga pleaded guilty Thursday in Essex County Court to felony second-degree attempted assault and misdemeanor fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

He has been in the Essex County Jail since the Dec. 18, 2012, fight at 170 Champlain Ave., during which he opened a folding knife with a 4-1/2-inch-long blade and tried to stab Samuel Leto.

County Judge Richard Meyer accepted Chenier’s guilty plea and set sentencing for Aug. 8. Bail of $10,000 cash or $20,000 bond was reimposed by the judge, although Chenier has not been able to pay the bail, and he was returned to jail after his court appearance.

Assistant District Attorney Brian Felton offered Chenier the plea agreement, which dropped an original charge of felony second-degree assault lodged by Ticonderoga Town Police.

At one point during the proceedings, it looked like the plea would not be accepted because Chenier was denying the charges.

“I did not have the intent to hurt him (Leto),” he told the court. “It was a struggle. He (Leto) was on top of me, striking me. I lashed out to protect myself.”

Leto was also arrested after the 5:30 p.m. altercation, charged with misdemeanor second-degree harassment and criminal trespass. He was jailed the night of the fight but later released on bail.

Ticonderoga Emergency Squad took Leto to Moses-Ludington Hospital, where he was treated for a knife laceration to the face then released.

“I can’t accept a (guilty) plea if it was self-defense,” Meyer told Chenier.

Chenier then conferred with his attorney, Reginald Bedell of Willsboro, finally telling the court he did intend to strike the victim and it was not self-defense.

He has a prior felony conviction, for failure to register as a sex offender, and Meyer said the sentence was by law more severe because Chenier is a second felony offender.

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