A second person involved an attempted robbery of a smoke shop in May where the employees fought back and the suspects fled, leading to a regionwide manhunt, entered a felony guilty plea in County Court today.
Misty Dawn Souza, 26, of St. Johnsville, entered a guilty plea to the first count of a five-count grand jury indictment, for attempted robbery in the second degree.
Last week, Jeremy J. Reynolds, 34, of Johnstown, also accepted a plea deal.
The duo was arrested after the Genesee County Sheriff's Office sought leads on the suspects in a robbery of the Smoke Rings Smoke Shop on the Tonawanda Indian Reservation. The man and woman entered the shop with what appeared to be guns, but only the man tried to continue with the robbery after his partner fled. He was confronted by an employee he didn't initially know was in the store and briefly detained in a back room before managing to escape through a window, dangling from the window, held by one leg by an employee, for a time.
Without a plea agreement for Souza, the Class D violent felony carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison. The plea deal caps Souza's possible sentence to three and a half years, provided she stays out of trouble between now and sentencing at 9:30 a.m., Jan. 4.
At sentencing, her attorney, Fred Rarick, will argue that Souza should receive a sentence of probation with no prison term. He said in court today that he believes he can make a convincing case.
As discussed in court today, and as Souza volunteered while sitting in a Town of Alabama courtroom following her arrest in May, Souza suffers from a series of mental health issues and is required to take multiple medications.
In court May 21, Souza was frazzled and disheveled and rambled on about her concerns, the crime itself and her mental health issues while sitting in court. She said she had been off her medication since prior to the robbery attempt.
Today, in court, she was a different person -- calm, well-spoken and polite as she answered questions from Interim Judge Micheal Pietruszka.
These factors will be part of Rarick's attempt to help Souza avoid a prison term.
Rarick will also need to make the case that the robbery attempt was really the idea of Reynolds and that Reynolds misled Souza into participating and that while she participated briefly, she fled the scene almost immediately.
Rarick will need to successfully argue that Souza does not present a danger to the community.
She has no prior criminal record -- in the Alabama court, she said she never even had a traffic ticket before. She also has no history of use or abuse of illicit drugs.
She also has five children.
Souza's mother was in court with her today. Rarick told Pietruszka that his client has been nothing but cooperative and timely in her communications and court appearances.
She is out of jail on $50,000 bond.
Pietruszka noted that it will be up to the new county judge, likely Charles Zambito, to decide on Souza's sentencing on Jan. 4.