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Brushton man sentenced to 35 years in prison for kidnapping, abusing ex-girlfriend

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MALONE - A Brushton man previously convicted on six counts stemming from a 2010 incident where he kidnapped his ex-girlfriend and strangled her was sentenced as a second violent felony offender to 35 years in state prison with five years post-release supervision on Monday.

Robert J. “BJ” McCann, 28, had been found guilty of second-degree attempted murder, second-degree kidnapping, first-degree assault, first-degree criminal use of a firearm, first-degree attempted assault and first-degree stalking after a 10-day trial in February IN Franklin County Court. The sentence is to run consecutive to a four-year sentence he is serving for second-degree attempted burglary, for which he is eligible for parole in Sept. 2013.

The victim and her family sat on the opposite side of the courtroom as McCann’s family, but there were tears on both sides as the sentence was handed down.

No remorse, no regret

McCann did not speak on his behalf when offered the chance to do so by Judge Robert G. Main Jr. He then took up a defiant attitude after the judge imposed sentencing, refusing to sign paperwork that included an order of protection barring him from any contact with the victim until 2047 and a $1,309 monetary judgement against him to cover his mandatory fees and surcharges.

The only statement McCann made was to indicate he understood his right to file a notice of appeal within 30 days.

“I understand that your honor and that will definitely be done,” McCann said.

“I think it was a fair sentence, given that first of all Mr. McCann doesn’t realize what he did was wrong and takes no responsibility for it,” Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Crawford, who prosecuted the case, said in an interview.

During the sentencing, she described McCann as a violent narcissist who refuses to take responsibility for his actions.

The evidence the court heard, saw, and reviewed in this matter can only be described as chilling, can only be described as depicting an individual completely out of control, bent on pursuing his own purposes and willing to inflict the ultimate sacrifice on anyone who gets in his way,” Judge Main said.

Judge Main did not give an entirely bleak outlook for McCann. He closed his sentencing comments by hoping “in some fashion the sentence will motivate the defendant to live his life differently than he has today.”

Victim addresses the court

The victim stood and read an impact statement to the court through tears while her family looked on.

“I can only hope Robert McCann is never given an opportunity to torture another innocent human being such as myself,” she said. “I never thought that at 22 years old I’d be looking death in the face, strangled to unconsciousness.”

“I think justice has been served, that’s all I have to say,” the victim said following the sentencing.

The victim said she has relocated, but has been harassed in public by some of McCann’s friends and family. She said that she received a letter around Christmas time that said she “should be ashamed of taking a father away from his daughter” and needed to write the district attorney’s office and say she lied about what happened.

Attempts to vacate sentence

Public Defender Thomas Soucia, who represented McCann, had filed an instant motion on his client’s behalf to have the verdicts set aside, which Judge Main denied. The motion was pursuant to a section of criminal procedure law that allows a verdict to be vacated in the face of evidence that would reverse or modify them if the evidence was presented to an appellate court.

“I don’t believe the defendant’s request is based on any evidence on the record,” Mr. Crawford said.

“There is no ground or error of law that would require vacation or setting aside of the verdicts,” Judge Main said.

Soucia filed a similar motion during the trial, which was also denied.

Not over yet?

Mr. Soucia said he does intends on filing a notice of appeal.

“I don’t think there’s sufficient evidence for attempted murder, I don’t think there’s sufficient evidence for first-degree assault,” Soucia said.

He explained it is his belief that to convict for an attempted murder charge, there has to be intent to kill.

“The testimony of... his confession, or his alleged confession, he doesn’t say anything about wanting to kill her,” Soucia said. “If you look at him and the situation... he was in a position to do so; If he wanted to he could have easily done it.”

Soucia added that he feels the definition of first-degree assault implies much more serious injuries than the victim was shown as having received during trial.

“There’s a number of issues, and those will be addressed during appeal,” Mr. Soucia said.

He added the appeal process could also question if he did a good enough job representing his client.

Original incident

McCann was arrested on Oct. 8, 2010 after he had lured an ex-girlfriend to the Westville fire training grounds three days earlier and placed her in a chokehold until she was unconscious. An expert testified the victim was about one minute away from death. McCann then brought her to his house in Brushton, where he again strangled her and threatened her life. After that, he took her to Plattsburgh and hid her in the trunk of her car, which he was driving, so she couldn’t run away or call for help. He was apprehended after a massive manhunt, involving multiple American and Canadian law enforcement agencies. He was found hiding in a crawlspace in an apartment in Akwesasne.

At the trial, McCann was also facing three counts of first-degree rape stemming from an incident involving the same victim on Sept. 7, 2010. McCann was alleged to have forced the victim to have sex with him at his residence before he would let her leave.

No evidence to support the rape charges were given at trial beyond the victim’s testimony, and the jury acquitted McCann on those charges.

Not the first time

McCann has a previous third-degree assault conviction stemming from a domestic violence incident involving his ex-wife. In February, District Attorney Derek Champagne said had McCann taken the witness stand, he would have asked him about an incident in which McCann held that victim at gunpoint for five or six hours in 2002. Mr. Champagne said that relationship involved a long history of violence and abuse.

In June 2007, McCann pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation for an attempted second-degree burglary conviction. He admitted breaking into a home in the town of Westville on Aug. 26, 2006 and stealing a fireproof safe containing $6,000 cash. He was sentenced to four years in state prison on Dec. 6, 2010 for violating the terms of his probation by not maintaining employment, being unsuccessfully discharged from anger management classe, and leaving the county without permission when he took the victim to Plattsburgh on Oct. 5 and 6, 2010.

“Previous attempts at rehabilitation have been unsuccessful - flagrantly so,” Judge Main said at Monday’s sentencing.

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