WGRZ Interviews Barry Covert About Attica Prison Guards’ Plea Deal

Barry Covert, renowned Buffalo criminal defense attorney, was invited to the WGRZ studios to discuss a plea deal reached by three former guards at the Attica Correctional Facility. Sean Warner, Keith Swack, and Matthew Rademacher were charged with attacking George Williams, an inmate in prison for grand larceny, in 2011, breaking Mr. Williams’s shoulder, both ankles, and an eye socket. The attackers were also accused of planting a razor blade on Mr. Williams to justify their assault, a charge that was eventually dropped.

Click here for the interview.

Felony charges pled down

In a very unusual response to Mr. Williams’s complaint, prosecutors in Wyoming County obtained felony indictments for gang assault against the three officers.

On March 2, the three took plea deals and resigned from their jobs just before jury selection was to begin in Wyoming County Court. Under the deal, the long-suspended officers agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of official misconduct. They received promises they would get no jail time for the beating.

Favorable deal for the defense

Asked why the deal was only reached at the last minute before beginning the trial, Mr. Covert said, “Because at the end, right before you’re going to pick a jury, is when you know the strengths and weaknesses of the case. The prosecution decided that they were ready to get rid of the case, that they were going to plead. The defense decided that they were ready to plead. From the defense’s point of view, it’s a very favorable plea because they pled to misdemeanors, but there’s no probation, there’s no jail time, and there’s no fines.”

The fourth guard

Another corrections officer alleged to have taken part in the beating was supposed to testify against the other three.

Mr. Covert said about this guard, “Apparently he’s getting a full pass because he was cooperating, and he was helpful in helping this thing get resolved.”

About a civil suit, Mr. Covert said, “It’s already been filed, and you can expect that it’s going to be going on for a little while, and there’s going to be some money paid out.”

A member of Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Criminal Defense Trials and Appeals Practice Area, Mr. Covert is known for his aggressive representation of clients in the areas of New York State and federal criminal trials and appeals; constitutional law, including First Amendment and civil rights actions; defending against allegations of scientific misconduct and fraud, research misconduct and fraud, plagiarism, and fabrication of evidence; and professional licensing defense.