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DeCarlo gets 14 years for attempted murder

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MALONE - A sobbing Daniel R. DeCarlo II, 29, stood before Judge Robert G. Main on Monday, apparently repentant for his crimes and willing to accept his punishment.

Judge Main sentenced DeCarlo to 14 years in state prison for each of four felony counts – to run concurrently – for crimes the judge described as “indicative of cold, calculating, callous, criminal conduct.”

DeCarlo is the first of three men to be sentenced in connection with a home invasion burglary last June that left Malone resident Jeffrey Durant with a fractured skull and more than 50 stitches. DeCarlo, along with 20-year-olds Brandon F. Collins and Todd N. Knudson Jr., drove to Malone from Plattsburgh and, according to testimony from Knudson, broke into Durant’s house on the Whippleville Road near the Malone Golf Course, and attacked the sleeping Durant with a crowbar.

“This is one of the most brutal and wanton acts of violence, short of death, committed in this county in my tenure,” Judge Main said, noting that DeCarlo devised a plan, secured henchmen, traveled, utilized gear and technology, and used a stealthy approach during the commission of the crime.

According to Knudson – in testimony offered at a preliminary hearing last year – he and Collins were wandering around Plattsburgh late on June 25, 2011 when DeCarlo pulled up in his car and told them he was going to be in a fight and that he might need some backup. Knudson testified that he understood that there was going to be a one-on-one fight between DeCarlo and the victim.

“Me and Brandon were supposed to be his backups,” Knudson said. “If it was just them two, we were gonna stay out of it.”

After an hour-long drive to Malone and another hour walking from DeCarlo’s car, though, things took a nastier turn. Knudson said the three men slipped into the victim’s house sometime after 3 a.m. and found Durant asleep on the couch. He said that’s when DeCarlo brandished a crowbar and began beating Durant with it.

Knudson said Durant then jumped up from the couch, a scuffle ensued, and Collins put Durant in a headlock while DeCarlo continued to beat him with the crowbar.

“I heard someone yell, “Don’t just stand there, help me.’ And that’s when I ran,” Knudson testified, adding that Collins ran out of the house soon afterward.

New York State Police Investigator Joseph Tatro also testified at the 2011 hearing, describing how he took DeCarlo into custody early June 26, 2011 after finding him “soaking wet [and] with an apparent bloodstain on his shirt” in the men’s locker room at the Malone Golf and Country Club. Tatro estimated that the distance from the victim’s house to the country club is 400 to 500 yards. Knudson and Collins were apprehended the same day.

In July of this year, DeCarlo pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted murder, assault, burglary, and gang assault, all felonies. In return for his plea, he was offered a prison sentence of no more than 14 years.

On Monday, Judge Main accepted the deal brokered between the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office and DeCarlo’s attorney, Public Defender Thomas Soucia, who spoke on his client’s behalf prior to sentencing.

“On the night [of the crime],” said Soucia, “he wasn’t thinking clearly. He made a mistake.” Soucia added that his client takes full responsibility for his crimes and has expressed remorse. Soucia requested a 10-year sentence for DeCarlo.

When offered the chance to speak to the court on Monday, DeCarlo took the opportunity to ask forgiveness from Durant and to take responsibility for his actions.

“I know I’m gonna have to pay for what I’ve done,” said a tearful DeCarlo. “I’m very sorry. I wasn’t thinking properly. ... I stand [here] today to take responsibility for my actions.”

Since the attack, Durant – a middle school principal for the Saranac Central School District – has mostly recovered, though he said in a letter read to the court prior to Monday’s sentencing that he continues to suffer both physical and psychological effects in the wake of the home invasion and attack.

DeCarlo was also sentenced to five years of post-release supervision and an order of protection remains in effect until 2034.

Collins has pleaded guilty to a class C violent felony count of second-degree burglaryand is awaiting sentencing; charges against Knudson are still pending.

Prosecutors believe the motivation behind the attack was because Durant was seeing DeCarlo’s ex-girlfriend.

District Attorney Champagne, speaking outside the courtroom following Monday’s sentencing, said, “All things considered, it was an appropriate sentence.”

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