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Oakes appealing manslaughter conviction

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MALONE - A Snye, Que., man currently serving 25 years in state prison for a 2008 shooting is appealing the sentence in the Third Department of the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division on the grounds that his guilty plea was coerced and his legal representation was inadequate, according to attorneys on both sides of the issue.

Richard “Dickie” Oakes, 41, is currently serving his 25-years sentence at the maximum security Auburn Correctional Facility after being convicted on first-degree manslaughter and first-degree burglary counts. His girlfriend, Ronda “Amber” Dufoe, 28, is serving 20 years for the same convictions at the maximum security Bedford Hills women’s prison.

According to Mr. Oakes’ attorney, Brian Barrett of Lake Placid, the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office told Oakes that if he pleaded guilty to state level charges, the U.S. Attorney’s Office would not pursue federal charges against him.

“They [Franklin County DA’s Office] led Mr. Oakes to believe he would be indicted on federal murder conspiracy charges,” Barrett said. “It [threat of federal prosecution] rendered the defendant’s plea involuntary.”

In 2010, Oakes and Dufoe each pleaded guilty to killing Thomas Hathaway, 44, of Akwesasne by shooting him in the face while he slept and burning his house to the ground to cover the crime on Sept. 3, 2008.

Franklin County Chief Assistant District Attorney Glenn MacNeill, who argued the appeal, said in June 2010 that Oakes, Dufoe, Dufoe’s twin sister Rene “Ashley” Dufoe, and a fourth person, Taylor John, were drinking and using oxycodone and possibly cocaine on the night of the murder when they came up with a list with names of people who had previously done harm to the Dufoe sisters. The charged Mr. Hathway sexually abused Dufoe and her twin sister when they were children.

Mr. MacNeill said Oakes likely would have faced federal charges for a number of reasons and the plea bargain was written in consultation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“The federal government agreed they would not prosecute if they took the state plea,” MacNeill said.

The killing was actually plotted in Canada and they crossed the border into the U.S. to carry it out, which means it would fall into federal territory, according to Mr. MacNeill.

“The crime happened on Indian land, there is concurrent jurisdiction with the federal government on Indian land,” he added.

Mr. MacNeill additionally cited the Major Crimes Act, which says that major crimes committed on Indian land are handled by federal courts instead of tribal courts.

The second big issue that Mr. Barrett and Mr. MacNeill discussed is Oakes’ claim that he was not properly represented.

“Frankly, he was sold out by Syracuse lawyers,” Mr. Barrett said, but would not comment further.

Mr. MacNeill said Oakes’ main complaint is he didn’t get the attorney he hired. He explained that Oakes made an appearance in Peru Town Court to answer to an unrelated charge and was arrested for the murder on his return from there.

Oakes was represented by one attorney for the Peru matter and later retained James McGraw of Syracuse to represent him for the murder, but both attorneys filed notices that they would represent him for the homicide, according to MacNeill. He said each appeared with him in Franklin County Court on separate occasions.

“He became angry with them after he pleaded guilty, then he hired Mr. Barrett,” Mr. MacNeill said, adding that Oakes has claimed he never hired Mr. McGraw.

McGraw did not immediately return a request for comment.

“I feel we have an adequate chance of the court ordering a new trial,” Mr. Barrett said, adding the he thinks the appellate court will come back with a decision in three to six months; Mr. MacNeill said he believes it will take about one month.

According to New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (NYSDOCCS) officials, Oakes has had no disciplinary problems during his incarceration and is enrolled in an adult basic education program.

The NYSDOCCS website says Oakes will be eligible for conditional release on Jan. 2, 2026.

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