Modified: August 17, 2015 2:38pm
Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita, III announces that 37 year-old Jeffrey Basil of Cheektowaga, pleaded guilty to Manslaughter in the First Degree in satisfaction of an indictment charging him with Murder in the Second Degree, in connection with the homicide of 28 year-old William Sager.
On May 11, 2014, at approximately 1:30 am, Basil launched the victim across a steep flight of stairs at Molly’s Pub, located in the University Heights neighborhood in the City of Buffalo. The victim, a member of the Air Force National Guard, eventually succumbed to his injuries.
On January 21, 2015, Basil was convicted as charged after a jury trial conducted before State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang. Prior to sentencing, Basil filed a motion seeking to set aside the verdict. On May 5, 2015, Justice Wolfgang granted the defendant’s motion, citing misconduct on behalf of a juror who deliberated upon the evidence.
The reasons for the reduced plea, or so-called “plea bargain” include the following:
- There is no guarantee that upon a re-trial Basil will again be convicted of Murder in the Second Degree, a class “A” violent felony. By contrast, Basil’s guilty plea to Manslaughter in the First Degree guarantees that he will stand convicted of a class “B” violent felony, as opposed to a conviction for a lesser included homicide offense -- such as Manslaughter in the Second Degree (aka Reckless Manslaughter) or Criminally Negligent Homicide – or an acquittal.
- Assuming he was convicted of any criminal offense after trial, including Murder in the Second Degree, Basil would surely file motions to set aside the verdict and/or to vacate the judgment of conviction, as well as file appeals in both the state and federal courts (this means that the trial court could again set aside a guilty verdict and/or the appellate courts overturn another guilty verdict). Basil has waived these rights as a condition of his guilty plea.
- Assuming he was convicted of Murder in the Second Degree after trial, Basil would face an indeterminate sentence having a minimum of 15-25 years to a maximum of life imprisonment (at the discretion of the Board of Parole). Assuming he was convicted of Manslaughter in the First Degree after trial, Basil would face a determinate sentence having a minimum of eight years and a maximum of 25 years (at the discretion of the judge) in state prison. As a condition of his guilty plea, Basil must serve at least 15 years (as opposed to a minimum of eight years) in state prison.
- A guilty plea with an appeal waiver saves the Sager family from having to again endure what is sure to be another emotionally draining and heavily publicized trial, as well as the years of appellate litigation that would ensue.
- Most importantly, the Sager family approves of this disposition.
In light of the foregoing factors and in the exercise of the discretion afforded to a District Attorney under the laws and constitution of this state, the defendant was permitted to plead guilty to Manslaughter in the First Degree in satisfaction of the indictment lodged against him by an Erie County Grand Jury.
DA Sedita stated the following, “Although we would have preferred for the defendant to have been convicted of all the charges contained in the indictment and to have received the maximum sentence possible, we believe this plea – which will result in a lengthy prison sentence, prevent years of appellate litigation and give closure to the Sager family – is an appropriate disposition under all the circumstances. On behalf of the District Attorney’s Office, I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the officers and detectives who professionally investigated the case and the jurors who attentively listened to the evidence and dispassionately deliberated upon the evidence when this case was tried.”
Justice Wolfgang scheduled sentencing for the morning of July 22, 2015.
Finally, it should be noted that a reduced plea, or so-called “plea bargain” is not the norm after a defendant has been indicted for crimes by an Erie County Grand Jury. In Erie County, only 5% of indicted cases result in a plea bargain, while the remaining 95% result in another disposition such as a plea of guilty to the highest and most serious charge of the indictment, a trial conviction, a trial acquittal, or a dismissal of the indictment on technical legal grounds.